Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. We have already considered the first table of the law, which states our duty to God. We come now to consider the second table of the law, which regards our duty to man. The sum of it is, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." We as much need grace rightly to keep the second table as the first.

II. The fifth commandment is, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you." In the spirit of this law, a father and a mother point not only to our parents according to the flesh, but to all who have authority over us, or are our superiors. We ought in heart, speech and act to honor and reverence our superiors, Proverbs 16:31; pray for them, 1 Tim. 2:1-3; cheerfully obey their lawful commands and good counsels, Eph. 6:1-7; be true and faithful to them, defend them, Tit. 2:9, 10; Romans 13:6, 7; love them, and, as far as possible, hide their faults, Gen. 9:23. This command forbids us to envy our superiors, Numb. 11:28, 29; to despise them, Isaiah 3:5; to rebel against just authority, Exod. 21:15; to curse or mock them, Deut. 21:18-21; or try to put them to shame, Proverbs 19:26. All this implies that parents and other superiors should love and pray for those under them, Eph. 6:4; should instruct and counsel them, Deut. 6:6, 7; defend them, Romans 13:3; commend them, Esth. 6:3; and, when necessary, chastise them, Proverbs 29:15 but never to be bitter against them, Eph. 6:4. This precept also shows the sin of envying the gifts or grieving at the prosperity of our equals. The promise added to this commandment is, "That your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you." Compare Deut. 5:16; 1 Kings 8:25; Eph. 6:2, 3. It is a lovely sight to see a whole family or society ruled by the law of love.

III. The sixth commandment is, "You shall not kill." This requires a careful study and a lawful endeavor to preserve human life. 1 Sam. 19:4, 5. It therefore requires us to subdue all malignant passions, Psalm 37:8, 11; Proverbs 22:24, 26; Eph. 4:26; and to be very careful in the use of food, drink, medicine, rest, and recreation, so as not to shorten life. Proverbs 17:22; 23:20, 29, 30. It requires us to banish hatred, 1 John 3:15; 4:20, malice, envy, 1 Peter 2:1, unjust jealousy, Cant. 8:6, needless disquietude, unholy anger, Jas. 4:1; Proverbs 27:4; and to cherish love, pity, and kindness in our hearts, words and acts, 1 Cor. 13:4-7; to forgive injuries, Matt. 6:14; 15; Romans 12:19, 20; and to help and defend the innocent, Proverbs 24:11; 31:8, 9; Matt. 25:35, 36. It forbids the needless, careless, unjust or cruel wasting of human life, irritating words, Proverbs 12:18; 15:1; injustice, Exod. 22:2, quarrelling, striking, Isaiah 3:15, wounding or insulting men, Proverbs 28:17, so as to distress their spirits, or to tempt them to deeds of violence.

IV. The seventh commandment is, "You shall not commit adultery." This requires purity in the mind, in the heart, in words, looks, and acts. It requires us to be chaste in body, 1 Thess. 4:4, 5; to avoid unchaste sights and unchaste company. Job 31:1; Proverbs 5:3-10. It says nothing against lawful wedlock. "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled." Heb. 13:4. Our Savior was present at a marriage. It forbids adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, all unclean thoughts and affections, all wantonness in looks, dress, or behavior. 1 Cor. 7:2; Tit. 2:4, 5; Matt. 5:28; Jer. 5:7; 1 Cor. 5:9; 1 Tim. 2:9. It allows no man to have more than one wife, and no woman to have more than one husband. We should avoid everything that begets in us or in others any lack of purity or temperance. Eph. 5:3, 4. Husbands ought to love their wives very tenderly, and very strongly, even as Christ loved the church. Eph. 5:29, 33. And wives should reverence their husbands and love them. Eph. 5:33; Titus 2:4, 5.

V. The eighth commandment is, "You shall not steal." This clearly requires truth, justice, fairness, honor, and fidelity in trades and bargains between man and man. Psalm 15:2, 4. We should give to every man, and every body of men their dues. Romans 13:7. It requires contentment with our own lot. 1 Tim. 6:8. It enjoins kindness to the poor and needy. Deut. 15:7, 8, 10; 1 Tim. 6:17, 18. Everyone ought to have some proper business, and be industrious in it. Romans 12:11; Eph. 4:28. It is our duty to care for those dependent on us, particularly poor and aged relatives or neighbors. 1 Tim. 5:8. This precept forbids all stealing, all robbery, all cheating, false weights and measures, all oppression, extortion, usury, vexatious law-suits, covetousness, love of the world. 1 John 2:15, 16. It is wicked to waste our worldly goods, and it is wicked to hoard them up, or to receive stolen goods. Proverbs 29:24; Psalm 50:18; James 5:4; Eccl. 4:8.

VI. The ninth commandment is, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." A neighbor is any one to whom we can do good or harm, whether he lives near us or not. Luke 10:30-37. This commandment requires us to think, feel, speak and act truly, Psalm 15:2, and sincerely, 2 Chron. 19:9, towards all our fellow-men. We should love and rejoice in their good name, 3 John 4, in their gifts and graces, Romans 1:8. We should defend the innocent. Psalm 82:3. We should take sides with the slandered. Psalm 15:3; Proverbs 25:23. We should keep our word and study and practice all things that are true, honest, lovely, and of good report. Phil. 4:8.

The sins against this commandment are many and heinous: such as telling lies, giving false evidence, Luke 3:14; Proverbs 19:5; asking other people to do so, calling evil good, and good evil, Isaiah 5:20; forgery, back-biting, Psalm 15:3; Romans 1:30; detracting, tale-bearing, whispering, Romans 1:29; scoffing, Proverbs 21:9; railing, 1 Tim. 6:4; reviling, 1 Cor. 6:10; flattering, Proverbs 20:19; boasting, Proverbs 20:14; or encouraging others to do these things. We must not take sides with the rich or poor when we pass judgment. We must not "respect persons." We must not be glad when men do wrong or when they suffer wrong. Read James 2:1-18.

VII. The tenth commandment is, "Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns." Surely this requires contentment with our own lot, Heb. 13:5, and pleasure at the good success of our neighbor, Romans 12:15. Surely it forbids all discontent, all envy, James 3:14, 16, all ill-will towards others, as well as all vain-glory, Gal. 5:26, and all the pride of life, Proverbs 8:13; 11:2.

VIII. We should keep all these precepts. "Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all your commandments." Psalm 119:6; Compare 1 Cor. 7:19. In no other way can we prove our love to Christ. John 14:23. Nor is there any substitute for an honest, simple, earnest keeping of the law of God. Deut. 10:12, 13; 28:58, 59 Micah 6:6-8.

IX. The motives urged upon us for keeping God's commandments are, 1, it is our duty; 2, his commands are not grievous; 3, we are under obligations of gratitude; 4, God is worthy of all honor, and the highest honor we can give him is to obey him and imitate him.

X. A right study of the law shows us that we are all sinners. "There is no man who does not sin;" "There is not a just man upon earth that does good and sins not;" "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 Kings 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; Proverbs 20:9; 1 John 1:8.

XI. It is a glorious truth that for the purposes of righteousness— complete justification—we are delivered from the law. Romans 7:6. We are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14. The way of access to heaven by personal deservings is forever closed against sinners. But thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift, Jesus Christ. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23.