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them; for I the Lord thy God am a zealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation, to those who hate Me; and showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me, and keep My commandments. 3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God for falsehood; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name for falsehood. 4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor thy stranger who is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. 5. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God gives thee. 6. Thou shalt not murder. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 8. Thou shalt not steal. 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house ; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's.'
These Commandments, a conspicuous landmark in the dim ages of the past, have preserved their force undiminished until our time. They comprise indeed in their brief compass man's chief duties towards God and towards his fellow-creatures. They are calculated to make men pious, reverential, humble, obedient, able to restrain their passions, their desires, their very thoughts. They were revealed to the Hebrews, but they are binding upon all nations of the earth. They can be obeyed and acted upon in every country, by every race. They are written above the Ark of the Hebrew Temple, engraved on the altar
of the Christian Church, and taught by the Eastern sage.
They may be divided into two groups: the one relates to our duties towards God, the other to those towards our fellow-creatures; the former comprises the four first, the latter the five last commandments, while the fifth refers to our parents, who occupy a position between God and our fellow-men, and in some respects partake of the character of both.
The first commandment enjoins the belief in the existence of God, the Creator, the gracious Bestower of all things. The Israelites had been rescued from their cruel bondage by God, and by Him alone : could they doubt the power of Him to whom they owed their happiness and their freedom? Could they imagine any other Being equal to Him in greatness, or wisdom, or mercy? They were, therefore, not only to believe in His existence, but also in His unity.
The second commandment is meant as a support and safeguard of the first ; God is not to be represented by any image or outward form whatever. This prohibition was indispensable for the Hebrews, who still required the severest training for a pure and spiritual faith, and were encompassed by nations of idolaters, who might easily induce them to portray God in images of wood or stone, of gold or silver, in the shape of man, beast, or monster, and to bow down before such an idol. And what was the punishment for the sin of idolatry ? Long years of suffering, extending to the third and fourth generation, tainting the lives of unborn children.
The unity and incorporeality of God having thus been declared, His sanctity was enforced in the third commandment. The name of the Lord, so great and awful in import, was not to be profaned by taking a false oath. Perjury, thus criminally aggravated, would call
down on the offender the most fearful retribution. An oath sworn by the holy name of the Lord, can be justified only by the most perfect sincerity of him who swears it.
The injunctions bearing upon God and His worship reach their culminating point in the fourth commandment—the observance of the Sabbath as a sacred day of rest. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of this precept. The creation of the world in six days and the one day of rest that followed it, were to be emblems of man's busy six days of labour, relieved by the day consecrated to God. The Sabbath should bring perfect rest to man and beast. Human thoughts, ever turned to worldly things, should on that day soar upwards, and forgetting gain and barter and toil, dwell in holy contemplation on the mercies of God, give utterance to praise and thanksgiving, or learn to search for a nobler and higher welfare than is possible during the din and turmoil of daily life. The Sabbath, sanctified and hallowed, became the first of holy days. It was meant constantly to remind the Hebrews of their relation to God; it was designed as an aid for establishing His sovereignty among them. Therefore, so far from being spent in apathy or indifference, it was to be an ever-recurring feast for heart and mind and soul, a feast gladly welcomed by individuals, households, and the nation, including the stranger within the gates.'
Man owes to his parents a reverence second only to that which is due to God, and hence the place which the fifth commandment occupies in the decalogue. For parents exercise in some measure a Divine right over their children, they are to them the earthly types of their unseen heavenly Father. Filial piety is a supreme religious and Divine duty; and its faithful observance is certain to be a blessing to the children. In eastern countries, the out
ward forms of respect towards parents or elders are peculiarly marked and expressive; the father has undisputed authority over his family, his wish is law, his word has a holy power. But the fifth commandment is no less scrupulously observed in other climes; and those men and women who have won most honour and fame, have, as a rule, most vividly remembered and most gratefully acknowledged the care and devotion of a wise father or of a tender mother.
The sixth commandment, thou shalt not kill,' already enjoined in the time of Cain, and more distinctly still in the age of Noah, was repeated in the decalogue on account of its paramount importance. Man was created in the image of God; his life is a breath from the Divine spirit. The destruction of a man is, therefore, an attack against the majesty of God Himself. The Lord who gave the life can alone take it away. Murder is rebellion against all human and Divine laws.
And as the life of our fellow-men is to be sacred to us, so likewise should be his property; and so, in a higher degree, his wife, his dearest and most sacred possession, the companion of his life, the joy of his heart, the mother of his children; and so also his honour and good name, which might be assailed by the poisonous weapon of the slanderer and the tale-bearer. Therefore the commandment, thou shalt not kill,' is followed by the prohibitions, thou shalt not commit adultery,' thou shalt not steal,' and “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.'
But not in deed and word only, but even in thought man is commanded to abstain from encroaching upon his neighbour's property. His heart and mind are to be no less clean than his hands and lips. He has been told, thou shalt not covet;' he is to keep away the cankering worms of envy and jealousy, because they are certain to
destroy his repose, his happiness, and his virtue. Unless thought, the root of our words and of our deeds, be pure and healthy, we cannot hope to render our life holy and profitable.
And thus the last of the Ten Commandments may well be considered as the kernel, the very essence of the Law, warm with the breath of Divine truth and love, pure and sublime as the faith it was designed to strengthen and to support.
40. THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT.
[Exod. XXI.—XXIV.] The Israelites who had grown into a nation, recognised God as their king, and not only accepted the laws which He bestowed upon them through His servant Moses, but solemnly pledged themselves to observe and respect them: they concluded, as it were, a Covenant with God. It will be well briefly to consider these laws, both in groups and classes, and then individually in their mutual bearing. They comprise I. Ordinances respecting the right of persons, of free
men and slaves, in all their relations ; II. Provisions in reference to the right of property ;
and III. Moral laws which, however, are intimately con
nected with the civil organisation of the state.
I. The statutes which treat of the right of persons, and which, among other objects, aim at the protection of the slave from the caprice or cruelty of his master, belong to the most important of the whole code. The Hebrews,