Utility of a Course of Teaching on the Commandments
Exodus 20:1-2
And God spoke all these words, saying,

that Divine law which can never be destroyed. Let those who object to the preaching of morality remember John Wesley's words: "I find more profit in sermons on either good tempers or good works than in what are vulgarly called 'gospel sermons.'" Consider -


1. Division. We know that there are ten - the ten words - but how are the ten words made up? The modern Jewish method makes the introductory announcement, a "first word," and combines our first and second as the "second word." By others the first and second are combined as the first, and then the tenth divided to complete the number. Our own ordinary division is most likely to be correct; but various usage shows that the importance attaches not to the number but the sense.

2. Grouping. Two tables, but how many on each? Augustine held that the first table contained three, the second seven, whence he drew some mystical conclusions with regard to the Trinity. The popular view includes four in the first table, and six in the second. Most likely, however, there should be five in each table [perhaps connected with the hand as the symbol of action]. On this view we shall see that in each table the four first commandments are rooted in the fifth.


1. The speaker (cf. Deuteronomy 5:22). - God, Jehovah, a personal Deity, and one whose nature is changeless (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). Moses did not evolve the law out of his own head; he heard it, he received it, he enunciated it, but "God spake all these words."

2. The motive. - The motive appealed to for obedience is too often fear; the motive too which Israel was most inclined to act upon. God, however, makes his appeal not to fear, but to the sense of gratitude: - "Remember what I have done for you, then hear what I expect you to do for me." The deliverer has a right to lay down rules of conduct for those whom he has delivered; whilst at the same time gratitude to him inspires them with a motive for obedience. Apply to ourselves: God has redeemed us; we should obey him not from fear, but from love - not that we may get something out of him, but because we have got so much already.


1. There is an order in the arrangement. "Order is heaven's first law," and it shows itself in the code from heaven. First God, our filial relations; then man, our fraternal relations; the upward-looking and the outward-looking aspects of life. Under each, too, the order is maintained; first we are shown the blossom, then the stem, then the root. The flower of worship is rooted in the home, and the flower of love is rooted in the heart.

2. The commandments are indications of the Divine will from which they spring. Our duty is to study what God has said in order that we may discover what he wishes. The old covenant was on stone-tables, easily intelligible and very definite; the new covenant is on hearts of flesh, it contains promptings to duty, rather than directions. We need both; we must use the old that we may give effect to the new, and the new that we may fulfil the old. [Illustration. - For engine to fulfil its works steam needed inside to propel, lines outside to direct.] The new covenant cannot render the old nugatory; it is well to have motive power, but we still need the lines laid down by which to guide ourselves when we have it. - G.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And God spake all these words, saying,

WEB: God spoke all these words, saying,

Usefulness of God's Commandments
Top of Page
Top of Page