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“And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”—Deut. 8:3. “… So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”—Isaiah 55:11. “… Jesus answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”—Matt. 4:4. These three passages are linked together by the common thought that human life is perfectly conditioned when it is governed by the words that proceed from the mouth of God. Deuteronomy records the last messages of Moses to the children of Israel. In this particular passage he states the meaning of the varied circumstances through which God has permitted them to pass. “He humbled thee, suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna.” To what purpose? “That He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.” CrossReach Publications

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The Ten Commandments

by

Rev. George Campbell Morgan

author of

“The True Estimate of Life,” etc.

New YorkChicago

Fleming H. Revell Company

LondonandEdinburgh

Copyright, 1901, byThe Bible Institute Colportage Association of Chicago

This edition © 2018 CrossReach Publications,Waterford, Ireland

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© 2018 CrossReach Publications

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this book or portions thereof in any form whatever.

to the sacred memory

of

Dwight Lyman Moody

at whose express desire

these studies were written and who

so perfectly understood and

so graciously revealed in life and service

the truth that with god

LAW is the expression of LOVE

CONTENTS

Introductory

The First Commandment

The Second Commandment

The Third Commandment

The Fourth Commandment

The Fifth Commandment

The Sixth Commandment

The Seventh Commandment

The Eighth Commandment

The Ninth Commandment

The Tenth Commandment

A New Commandment

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The Ten Commandments

Introductory

“And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”—Deut. 8:3.

“… So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”—Isaiah 55:11.

“… Jesus answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”—Matt. 4:4.

These three passages are linked together by the common thought that human life is perfectly conditioned when it is governed by the words that proceed from the mouth of God.

Deuteronomy records the last messages of Moses to the children of Israel. In this particular passage he states the meaning of the varied circumstances through which God has permitted them to pass. “He humbled thee, suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna.” To what purpose? “That He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Isaiah is the messenger of God to a people, who, through disobedience, have passed into captivity. Chapter 55. records one of the messages in which he contrasts their state of life in captivity with the blessedness and joy experienced when living in perpetual obedience to Divine law. It is of this law he speaks when he says, “So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth.”

In the New Testament we see Jesus, God’s perfect man, passing through the severest temptation. Replying to the first suggestion of the enemy, He reveals the realm in which He lives when He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

Let the passages which indicate the common thought be lifted from their setting.

i. “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.”

ii. “My word that goeth forth out of My mouth.”

iii. “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

Thus is revealed the supreme verity upon which the Mosaic, Prophetic, and Christian economies were based. The methods have been different and progressive; the purpose has been ever the same. The creation of the Hebrew nation, its preservation, and all its magnificent ritual and organization were directed to the end of giving expression to the first divine intention of the blessedness of man, receiving his law from the mouth of God, and yielding unquestioning obedience to it.

The prophetic office was that of forthtelling this Word of God principally to those who were disobedient. Its exercise was ever characterized by fierce denunciation of rebellion, glowing descriptions of the glory of the Divine Kingship, and passionate appeals to a return to loyalty.

Jesus, the author of Christian faith, lived from beginning to end without deviation or exception by the words proceeding from the mouth of God. In His passion-baptism He bore the penalty of the disobedience of the race, and in His resurrection took again His life, that He might communicate it to sinful men, that in its energy they also might obey the law of God.

Evidently, therefore, according to the consistent teaching of Scripture, man only understands the possibility of his being as he becomes acquainted with the law of God; and only realizes this possibility as he lives by the words proceeding from the mouth of God.

The reason for this is found in the fact that within the Divine intention, every human life moves through present probation to future purpose. Men are born, not merely for to-day, but for God’s to-morrow. Issue and consummation are out of sight, and are perfectly known to the Creator alone. The trouble is that so many live as though the whole purpose of life were realized in the little day on earth. Yet men know that it is not so, that this passing life is preparatory and probationary. To-day men sow, to-morrow they reap. The reaping depends upon the sowing. If the ultimate end is to be in harmony with the will of the eternal love, they must obey the law proceeding from that love: they must live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

the supreme duty of man

The supreme duty of every man is that he should discover and obey these words. If he live from day to day, from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year without reference to that law, hoping that after being regardless of, if not rebellious against it, he will at last slip into some happy state, then surely he must indeed be blind and foolish.

In the close of the Book of Ecclesiastes, the preacher says, “This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole of man” (12:13). Not “the whole duty of man,” as it was in the Authorized Version, but the “whole of man.” That is to say, if a man fear God and keep His commandments, he is a whole man. Judged by this standard, how many there are that are not whole men. This very book of Ecclesiastes reveals the fact. “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” That is the sum total of life lived “under the sun,” among things material and transient; life in a hemisphere. The whole man is realized when man “fears God and keeps His commandments.” That is, when both hemispheres are recognized. He who lives without reference to the law of God fails to fulfil the possibilities of his own being. He is not a man until he lives by the words that proceed from the mouth of God.

In the Epistle of James is found a word of deep significance. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all,” (2:10). Placing this side by side with the passage already referred to in Ecclesiastes, there are two phrases with a common denominator, “the whole”: “the whole man,” “the whole law.” Herein lies the explanation of the apparent severity of James’s utterance. Men are apt to think that if there be ten commandments, of which they obey nine, such obedience will be put to their credit, even though they break the tenth. That, however, is to misunderstand God’s purpose of perfection for man, and the consequent perfection of His law. The ten words of Sinai were not ten separate commandments, having no reference to each other. They were ten sides of the one law of God. The teaching of Jesus reveals the fact that these commandments are so inter-related that if a man offend in one point he breaks the unity of the law, and, therefore, of his own manhood. It is by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live.”

If these positions are established there need be no apology for a frank and honest facing of the Ten Commandments. They were the comprehensive words of God, uttered for the government of a people whose distinctive glory lay in the fact that they were a theocracy, under the immediate Kingship of the Most High, and whose recurring shame lay in their revolt from that authority. These words embody a perfect law of life for probationary days. They presuppose human failure and sin; and, therefore, they will have no place in the government of God in heaven. Not that man will do the forbidden things there, but the glorified nature of man will have put the committing of such things beyond the realm of possibility. In some measure the Christian dispensation antedates the heavenly state, for its whole genius lies in the fact that newborn souls share by that new birth in the motives and impulses of God.

Man still lives, however, both in his own personality and in his relation to his fellow-man, in perpetual touch with the old nature. The words of God are, therefore, of perpetual importance and value. He needs to be solemnly reminded that the law of the spirit of life in Christ sets him free from the law of sin and death, but not from the law of God. Every word of the Decalogue is repeated with emphasis and new power in the Christian economy.

In the series of studies now beginning it is proposed to consider the essential law contained in the ten words of the Decalogue, in every case endeavoring to trace the enforcement and emphasis of that law in the light of the Christian dispensation.

The severity of the law of God is the necessary sequence of His infinite love. The Eternal Heart purposes and seeks the ultimate perfection of every human being. To condone sin in any way, or excuse it, would be to make impossible the realization of that purpose. There is infinite significance in the opening words of the Swan Song of Moses, the lawgiver:

The Lord came from Sinai,

And rose from Seir unto them,

He shined forth from mount Paran.

And He came from the ten thousands of holy ones:

At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.

Yet, He loveth the peoples;

All His saints are in Thy hand:

And they sat down at Thy feet;

Everyone shall receive Thy words.

Deut. 33:2, 3.

The fiery law is the most perfect expression of His love for the peoples. Let men then with reverent sincerity stand in the light of His law, that they may understand the perfection of His love.

The First Commandment

“Thou shalt have none other gods before Me.”—Exodus 20:3.

Of the ten words of Sinai the first four deal with man’s relation to God. Of these the first brings us face to face with the object of worship: “Thou shalt have none other gods before Me.” The second reveals the true mode of worship: “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor the likeness of any form that is in heaven above.” The order of worship is to be spiritual, not material. The third states that this relation of man to God—that of worship—is to be a perpetual one, governing all his life: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” The fourth provides that a specific seventh of man’s time is to be set apart for the express and sole purpose of worshipping God: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Having laid the basis of life and character the Decalogue proceeds to deal with the relations of man to his fellows. First comes the family relation: “Honor thy father and thy mother”; second: “Thou shalt not kill”; third: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; fourth: “Thou shalt not steal”; and fifth: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” The remaining one is also of a moral nature, but shows that the heart of man is to be jealously guarded against wrong desire: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,” and so forth.

The subject of the present chapter is the first commandment, “I am the Lord thy God.… Thou shalt have none other gods before Me.” These are simple words, but their majesty would thrill, if it were fully appreciated.

the name of god

There is deep significance in the name by which God here declares Himself, JEHOVAH. It is a combination of three Hebrew words, which may be translated into an English form thus: Yehi, “He will be,” Hove, “being,” and Hahyah, “He was.” A combination is made from the three words by taking the first syllable of the first YEHi, the middle syllable of the second, hOVe, and the last syllable of the third, hahyAH, so that we have the name YEHOVAH. The whole name means, “He that will be, He that is, He that was.” Thus the very name brings man into the presence of the Supreme, the Eternal, the Self-existent God, Who is because He is—a great and perpetual mystery to the finite mind of man, and for the most part beyond all human analysis. If the mind reach out to the limitless stretches of future generations, God says, “I am He that will be.” If men think of the present moment, with all its marvelous manifestations of life and order and mystery and revelation, God says, “I am He that is.” If the mind be carried as far back as possible into infinite spaces of the past God says, “I am He that was.”

Whether man thinks of his origin, of his present condition, or of his future destiny, God says, “I AM”; and man cannot escape the great revelation of God which is put into the word, “I am JEHOVAH.”*

Such is the statement that leads up to the first law. But God says more, “I am Jehovah, thy God.” The word God here is Elohim, the plural of the word Eloah, meaning the supreme object of worship. God faces man, saying, “I am Jehovah, thy God—He that will be, He that is, He that was, the supreme object of worship.” Upon that is based the commandment; and to take it without that definition of the Person of God is to rob it of its great force. “I am Jehovah thy God.… Thou shalt have none other Gods before Me.”

I.—The Meaning of the Commandment

If God is what he claim to be—He that will be, He that is, He that was—then He must be the supreme object of worship. If it be true that He is Jehovah, man’s God—then the commandment is a reasonable one, and it must be a very unreasonable thing to have any other God beside Him. In the very necessity of the case, if the word spoken by God be true, then God is sufficient, and God is God. There cannot be two who fulfil that description of limitless life. Point to another god, and he must be limited. That becomes an impertinence and a sham to a man who has had a vision of the true God. Therefore it is based upon the necessity of the case—upon the most absolute reasonableness—that God first declares Himself and His glory, and then utters the first great word, “Thou shalt have none other gods before Me.”

Every man needs a god. There is no man who has not, somewhere in his heart, in his life, in the essentials of his being, a shrine in which is a deity whom he worships. It is as impossible for a man to live without having an object of worship as it is for a bird to fly if it is taken out of the air. The very composition of human life, the mystery of man’s being, demands a center of worship as a necessity of existence. All life is worship. There may be a false god at the center of the life; but every activity of being, all the energy of life, the devotion of powers—these things are all worship. The question is whether the life and powers of man are devoted to the worship of the true God or to that of a false one.

There is a center, a motive, a reason, a shrine, a deity somewhere—something which man worships. It has been said that when man dethrones God, he deifies and worships himself. There are men to-day of whom it may be said that they worship themselves with all their heart and with all their strength and with all their mind, and themselves only do they serve. In every case man demands a god, a king, a lawgiver—one who arranges the programme, utters the commandments, and demands obedience.

the genesis of idolatry

This incontrovertible fact reveals the genesis of idolatry. The moment a man gets out of touch with God and loses the vision of Him Who says, “I am Jehovah Elohim, the Lord thy God,” he puts something else in the place of God. Think of the gods of the heathen, as mentioned in the Bible—Moloch, Baal, and Mammon! The worship of Moloch was the descent of man into the realm of awful cruelty, that of Baal took men through the depths of bestiality and impurity, and that of Mammon debased its devotees to the lust which dreams that power lurks in possession. Moloch, Baal and Mammon were the gods of the heathen; and these are they that men are worshipping until this hour. Although these gods go by other names in this cultured and enlightened twentieth century, yet the world is crowded with idolaters who worship them. One need not go to Africa, China, or India for specimens—they may be found at home.

In the great cities to-day are hundreds of men who are offering human sacrifices to the Moloch of their lustful cruelty. Such care not how many people die in the struggle, so long as the base cravings of their hearts are satisfied. Great numbers of men worship Baal, the god of beastiality. How true this is, may be shown by the fact that to-night and last night there were 80,000 fallen women on the streets of London. Who keeps them? The worshippers of Baal. Is it realized that all the horrible carrying away of the life of young manhood in this terrible and damnable whirlpool of impurity is worship? It is so. ’Tis the homage of the man who, losing his God, worships at the shrine of a fallen Venus.

Mammon worship is another evil form of devotion which has also survived until this hour. The lust for gold is getting such a hold upon the hearts of men to-day that it is time the first commandment were preached with new emphasis. The worship of the god of gold is cursing the age.

So far generalities have been dealt with, and some men will deny that they worship any of the gods named. There are, however, two other forms of worship mentioned in the Scriptures, one in the Old Testament, and one in the New, worthy of attention. “He taketh up all of them with the angle, he catcheth them in his net, and gathereth them in his drag: therefore he rejoiceth and is glad. Therefore he sacrificeth unto his net, and burneth incense unto his drag; because by them his portion is fat, and his meat plenteous.” (Hab. 1:15, 16.)

It is a sad proof of the power of Mammon when a man worships the things that provide him with fatness and with meat. Are there not a great many to-day who worship their business instead of God? I shall most quickly reach my point by a story.

A boy was bringing home a loaf of bread; and one said:

“What have you there?”

“A loaf.”

“Where did you get it?”

“From the baker.”

“Where did the baker get it?”

“He made it.”

“Of what did he make it?”

“Flour.”

“Where did he get the flour?”

“From the miller.”

“Where did he get it?”

“From the farmer.”

“Where did the farmer get it?”

Then the truth dawned upon the boy’s mind, and he replied:

“From God.”

“Well, then, from whom did you get that loaf?”

“Oh, from God!”

Here is a boy who, in the last resort, acknowledges God to be the Giver of good.

In this materialistic age, a man says:

“My business supports me and my family.”

It is a lie; God supports him and his family. Men deal with God only as a last resource, and yet go on hoping to sneak into God’s heaven when they have done with his world; but the God of Sinai is thundering out to this age, “Thou shalt put Me first, and the business second.” Men may not sacrifice to the net, nor may they burn incense to the drag.

II.—The New Testament Enforcement