THEOLOGY FOR THE PEOPLE
Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875

GOD'S LAW
 

I. God is a Father, and teaches us to call him so. Mal. 1:6; Matt. 6:9. But he is also a Judge, Gen. 18:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; a Ruler, Mic. 5:2; Zech. 6:13; a Governor, Psalm 22; 28; Matt. 2:6; a King, Psalm 5:2; 10:16; a Lawgiver, Jas. 4:12; Deut. 6:24. One of the highest prerogatives of government is the power of making laws.

II. If God makes laws for his rational creatures, they are bound to study them, and learn what they mean. This is implied in nearly every verse of the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm Compare Deut. 6:6-9. No duty can be clearer. Men are as surely bound to obey them. Deut. 13:4; Jer. 26:13; 42:6; Acts 5:29; Heb. 5:9.

III. The law of God, as given from Mount Sinai, was in ten precepts, and is hence called the Decalogue, or the ten words, as the Hebrew expresses it. These ten precepts are statutes, ordinances, commandments. They claim and possess the highest authority. They are not given as advice, but as lawsólaws of binding force. The same ten precepts were repeated just before Israel entered Canaan.

IV. The law of God is by our Savior given in a briefer form. When one asked him, "Which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus answered him: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matt. 22:36-40. Compare Mark 12:28-31.

V. The apostle Paul gives even yet a more brief summary of the law of God: "All the law is fulfilled in one word, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Gal. 5:14. Again: "Love works no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:10. While it is true that love is the essential element demanded by both tables of the law, it is right to say that the subject on which Paul is speaking in both of the places cited, is our duty to our neighbor.

VI. A careful examination and comparison of Exod. 23:20, 21; Acts 7:30-38; and Heb. 12:25, 26, will show that in a very important sense the Son of God was the author of the moral law, was present when it was given, and has expressed displeasure when it was broken. Christ is dishonored when men keep not the law.

VII. The law has its binding force from the glorious character of the Lawgiver, and from his relations to his creatures. He is glorious in holiness. He is wonderful in working. He is Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer. The law also binds from its own excellence. It is spiritual, Romans 7:14; it is perfect, Psalm 19:8; it is holy, just, and good, Romans 7:12; it is unchangeable, Deut. 4:2; Isaiah 5:20; 2 Tim. 3:16. It is of course eternal. It is so declared to be by Jesus Christ. Matt. 5:17-19. One great object of the sermon on the mount was to rescue this law from false glosses.

VIII. This law was not only spoken by the mouth of God, but it was twice written by his finger. Deut. 4:33; 5:4, 22; Exod. 32:15, 16; 34:1; Deut. 10:4, 5.

IX. This law was at first on two tables of stone; and it is yet fitly spoken of as in two tables. The first of these consists of the first four precepts, directly relating to our duty to God. The second consists of six precepts, defining our duty to man.

X. The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before me." This clearly requires us to know God, 1 Chron. 28:9; and to confess him, Deut. 26:17; to own him and to honor him, Psalm 95:6, 7; to meditate upon his character, Psalm 63:6; to choose him, Josh. 24:22; to love and fear him, Deut. 6:5; to trust, Exod. 14:31, Isaiah 26:4; hope, Psalm 130:7, and delight in him, Psalm 37:4; to worship him in the way he appoints, Phil. 4:6; to study to please him, 1 Thess. 4:1; to be humble before him, and sorry when we offend him, Mic. 6:8; Jer. 31:18. It also forbids us to think, live, or act like atheists, Jer. 2:27, 28; Psalm 81:11; to withhold from him anything that is his due, Isaiah 43:22, 23; to be ignorant or forgetful of him, Jer. 4:22; to have base or vile thoughts concerning him, Acts 17:23, 29; to hate him, Romans 1:30; to distrust him, Heb. 3:12; to be vain or proud in his presence, Romans 1:30; to tempt him, Matt. 4:7; to restrain prayer before him, Job 15:4; or to trust in ourselves or in any creature for effectual help or succor, Jer. 2:13.

XI. The second commandment is, "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them." This law clearly requires that we should observe and keep pure all God's worship, Deut. 32:46; Matt. 28:20; we should pray and give thanks in the name of Christ, John 14:13; we should read, study, hear, and obey God's word, John 5:39; Jas. 1:21, 22; observe the ordinances of his house, Matt. 28:19; vow, and pay our vows, Psalm 66:13; and oppose all false worship, Micah 6:16; 1 Kings 12:33. It forbids worship not commanded by God, Deut. 4:15-19; Acts 17:29; the making or using any image or likeness to represent God, or to aid in worship, Romans 1:21-25. It forbids all superstition, all sacrilege, all contempt and hindering of God's worship, Acts 17:22; Col. 2:21-23. There is an awful reason given for keeping this command: "for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."

XII. The third commandment is: "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." This commandment requires us in thought, speech, and act, holily and reverently to use God's names, Matt. 6:9, titles, Psalm 68:4, attributes, Deut. 28:58, ordinances, Eccles. 5:1, word, Psalm 19:7, works and worship, Psalm 138:2, such as prayer, praise, vows, oaths, and lots, 1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 1:27. It requires us to do all to the glory of God. 1Pet. 2:12. And it forbids us to indulge in vain, profane, or superstitious use of anything pertaining to God. Acts 17:23; Jer. 7:4. It forbids blasphemy, Exod. 5:2, perjury, Zech. 5:4, profane oaths, Matt. 5:34-37, rash or wicked vows, Acts 23:12, 14, bitter cursings, Romans 12:14, murmurings against God, Romans 9:14-20, jesting with sacred things, Eph. 5:4, idle questions, 1 Tim. 6:4, 5, the use of charms, Deut. 18:10-14, hating of holy things, 2 Tim. 3:5, hypocrisy, Matt. 23:14, or in any way diminishing the fear of God in ourselves or others, Mark 8:38. The reason given is, "The Lord will not hold him guiltless, who takes his name in vain."

XIII. The fourth commandment is: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20:8-11. This precept requires us to keep holy all the time God has set apart for his service, expressly one whole day in seven. Gen. 2:3; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2. We are then to rest from all such works and employments as are on other days lawful, Exod. 16:25-29; Jer. 17:21, 22; and spend those sacred hours in such thoughts, reading, hearing, praying, praising, and conversation, as are suited to glorify God. Isaiah 58:13, 14. It is a great sin to be weary of the Sabbath-day, or to be idle on that day, or to engage in needless works, words, and thoughts about worldly matters. Luke 23:54-56. This command is most reasonable. Exod. 23:12. God gives us six days; he claims but the seventh part of our time. He has set us an example in resting the seventh day from all his works. This commandment is very solemnly enacted, beginning with the word "Remember." According to his promise, he greatly blesses those who keep holy the Sabbath. Isaiah 56:2-7. According to his threatening, he sorely chastises those who profane that sacred day. Jer. 17:27.




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