And God spoke all these words, saying,…
I. Those Ten Commandments were to the Jews THE VERY UTTERANCE OF THE ETERNAL, and they hold in their grand imagination that the souls of all Jews even yet unborn were summoned to Sinai in their numbers numberless to hear that code; so that, in the East, to this day, if a Jew would indignantly deny the imputation of a wrong, he exclaims, "My soul too has been on Sinai." And not to Jews only but to all mankind there is this proof that the Ten Words were indeed the oracles of God, that, if they be written upon the heart, they are an "It is written" sufficient for our moral guidance — they are a great non licet strong enough to quell the fiercest passions. For the laws of the natural universe may mislead us. One tells us that they are just and beneficent; another that they are deadly and remorseless: but of these moral Laws we know that they are the will of God. No man has seen His face at any time. He seems far away in His infinite heaven; clouds and darkness are round about Him. Yes; but righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His seat. And this was the very idea which the Jews wished to symbolize in the building of their Tabernacle. They hung it with purple curtains; they overlaid it with solid gold; they filled its outer court with sacrifices, its inner chambers with incense; — but when the High Priest passed from the Holy into the Holy of Holies — when on the great Day of Atonement he stood with the censer in his hands, and the ardent Urim on his breast, before what did he stand? Not before Visible Epiphany; not before sculptured image. There was total darkness in the shrine; no sunlight streamed, no lamp shed its silver radiance; through the awful silence no whisper thrilled; but, through the dim gleam of the glowing thurible and the smoke of the wreathing incense, he saw only a golden Ark over which bent the golden figures of adoring Cherubim — and within that Ark, as its only treasure, lay two rough hewn tables of venerable stone, on which were carved the Ten Commandments of the fiery Law. Those stony Tables, that Ark, that Mercy-seat, those adoring Cherubim seen dimly through the darkness, were to him a visible symbol of all creation, up to its most celestial hierarchies, contemplating, with awful reverence, and on the basis of man's spiritual existence, the moral Law of God.
II. AND IS THAT LAW ABROGATED NOW, OR SHORN OF ITS SIGNIFICANCE? Nay, it remains for the Gentile no less than for the Jew — for the nineteenth century after Christ no less than for the fifteenth before Him — the immutable expression of God's will. God, as the Italian proverb says, does not pay on Saturdays. He is very patient, and men may long deny His existence or blaspheme His name, but more than in the mighty strong wind which rent the mountains, and more than in fire, and more than in earthquake, is God in that still small voice which is sounding yet. Oh, it is not in Exodus alone, or in Deuteronomy alone, but in all nature that we hear His voice. In scene after scene of history, in discovery after discovery of science, in experience after experience of life, have we heard these words rolling in thunder across the centuries the eternal distinction of right and wrong. Confidently I appeal to you, and ask, Have you not, at some time in your lives, heard the voice of God utter to you distinctly these Commandments of the moral Law? Is there one here who has ever disobeyed that voice and prospered? If there be one here who feels, at this moment, in the depths of his soul, a peace which the world can neither give nor take away, is it not solely because by the aid of God's Holy Spirit he has striven to obey it? Yes, its infinite importance is that it is as old not as Sinai, but as humanity, and represents the will of God to all His children in the great family of man; so that if in this life we be passing from mystery to mystery, it is our surest proof that we are passing also from God to God. What matters it that we know not either whence we came or what we are, if "He hath shown thee, oh, man! what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
III. And thus it is, lastly, THAT IF WE BE FAITHFUL THE LAW MAY LEAD US TO THE GOSPEL. For his must indeed be a shallow soul who thinks it an easy thing to keep the Commandments. When we observe that the summary of the first Table is that life is worship, and of the second that life is service; when we notice that the first Table forbids sin against God, first in thought, then in word, then in deed; while the second, proceeding in a reverse order, forbids sins against our neighbour first in deed, then in word, and then in thought; so that, unlike every other code that the world has ever known, the Commandments begin and end with the utter prohibition of evil thoughts, which of us is not conscious that we have utterly broken God's Law in this, that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts? And when we go from Moses to Jesus, from Sinai to Galilee, will Christ abolish the Law? will He teach us that we may keep both our sin and our Saviour, and that there is no distinction between a state of sin and a state of grace? There are no dim presences, no thundering clouds, no scorching wilderness, no rolling darkness around the trembling hill, but the sweet human voice of one seated in the dawn on the lilied grass that slopes down to the silver lake — but does that voice abrogate the Law? Nay, more stringently than to them of old time come the ten commandments now. Murder is extended to a furious thought; adultery to a lascivious look; and at first it might seem as if our last hope were extinguished, as if now our alienation from God be permanent, since admitted into a holier sanctuary we are but guilty of a deadlier sin. And when this has been indeed brought home to us, and we see the unfathomable gulf which yawns before a God of infinite holiness and a heart of desperate corruption, then indeed — and above all in the meeting of calamity with crime — then cometh the midnight. But after that midnight to the faithful soul there shall be light. With the personal conviction that the Law worketh wrath, come also the personal experience that Christ hath delivered us from its curse. In Him comes the sole antidote to guilt, the sole solution to the enigma of despair. True, He deepened the obligation of the Law, but for our sake He also fulfilled it. And thus by love, and hope, and gratitude, and help, He gives us a new impulse, a new inspiration, and this is Christianity; and this Christianity has redeemed, has ennobled, has regenerated the world. The "thou must" of Sinai becomes the "I ought," "I will," I can." "I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me." And then for us the Law has done its work. It has revealed to us the will of God, it has revealed to us the apostacy of man, it has driven us to know and to embrace the deliverance of Christ.
Parallel VersesKJV: And God spake all these words, saying,