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Laws were accommodated to this design. After the advent of Christ, however, the Mosaic polity was destroyed, and with it also these laws, which were peculiarly instituted for its support. But the Moral Law, or Decalogue, except in those parts of it which have a ceremonial character, is the eternal and immutable rule of wisdom and justice, even in God himself, obliging all rational creatures either to obey it, or to submit to the penalties of disobedience.
§ 4. The term Decalogue, of Greek derivation, signifies Ten Words, or sentences, and is particularly assigned to the Ten Commandments given by divine authority, as the standard and rule of our duty towards God, and towards our neighbour-that is, all mankind. The Decalogue comprizes the fundamental articles of religious faith, as well as the principles of virtuous conduct; it is the compendium and epitome of the Moral Law, founded upon the belief and worship of the one true God,-the author of its terms, and the enforcer of its sanctions. It may, however, also be considered as partly of a mixt nature, not being entirely moral, but containing some matters ceremonial, and relating solely or chiefly to the Jews. Of this description are portions of the Second and Fifth Command.ents. It is consequently the pure part alone, which has no especial relation to the circumstances of the Jews, that is equally applicable to Jews and Christians.
§ 5. With regard to Christians, the Decalogue not only possesses its full force, but it has acquired additional authority from its having been constantly declared by our blessed Lord the rule of those good works which are necessary to the attainment of salvation,-from
its having been more fully explained and illustrated, more clearly displayed in its spiritual and comprehensive sense to His disciples, than it ever had been by Moses and the Prophets to the children of Israel. Christian liberty, therefore, consists in entire freedom from the obligations of the Mosaic Ceremonial and Judicial Laws;-in qualified liberation from the exactions of the Moral Law: that is-not liberation from its obligations, for the Decalogue is adopted into the Gospel ;-not total liberation from its penalties-for punishment is yet denounced against obstinate disobedience: but in freedom from the exaction of sinless obedience; and in freedom-on the condition of faith and repentance-from the fear of death, as either annihilation or eternal misery.
§ 6. The nature of the Decalogue being that of a brief and comprehensive summary, of which the spi. rit, and not the letter only, is the measure of obligation, it is necessary, in order to ensure such an interpretation as is consistent with the tenour of the revealed will of God, and with the light of reason which he has shed upon the conscience of mankind, to adhere to certain rules of acknowledged necessity. and truth. These being previously laid down and assented to, will form a standard to which every general precept may be brought, in order to ascertain its bearing upon any particular question; and to deduce from such comparison the strongest motives for practical obedience.
The principal and most important rules of interpretation are the following:-Precepts which are not limited in their application by God himself, are not to be limited by us; but must be received in their
widest sense-Precepts and prohibitions are to be understood not only as the regulators of outward actions, or external compliance, but equally of inward motives, of the mind, of the affections and aversions of the heart :-Where any particular virtue is enjoined, there the vice immediately opposed to it is prohibited; and where a vice is prohibited, the opposite virtue is enjoined :-Precepts which verbally enforce a certain defined virtue, comprehend also, in spirit, all similar virtues, and all means of promoting them; and prohibitions which require a certain vice to be avoided, include all similar vices, and all occasions of them:-Although the masculine gender is alone adopted in the phraseology of the Decalogue, females as well as males, being equally of the human race, which is, without exception, the subject of the divine laws, are equally amenable to the precepts and prohibitions of the Decalogue; its terms. only being altered to suit their several obligations:The Commandments being of two kinds, positive and negative, there is some difference between them in the extent of their application, though there be none in their authority and force; for the negative precepts, those which forbid, are obligatory at all times and in all cases; whereas the positive precepts, those which enjoin certain duties, do not require that these duties shall be constantly fulfilled, or actually performed at any but the proper seasons-they are not applicable to all persons, at all times :-Those things which are commanded or prohibited to each individual in the singular number, in which all the Commandments are addressed, each one is bound to promote or to discountenance to the utmost of his power in others:-As the Law is perfect in itself, so it cannot be performed by partial obedience, the breach
of one commandment being an offence against the authority of the whole, and being incapable of compensation by obedience to the remainder: universal obedience is required, and therefore the slightest shade of sin is justly considered as a transgression of the Law: -The same duties and virtues are not unfrequently required by different Commandments, being in different ways subservient to each of them; and the same sins are forbidden by more than one division of the Law, when they tend to the breach of more than one precept :-An explicit Commandment of the Decalogue, whether positive or negative, supersedes the authority of all passages found in other parts of Scripture, which may be improperly understood, so as to conflict with its obligations,-because the will of God is ever consistent with itself, and that which is doubtful or capable of misconstruction in his Word, must be interpreted according to that which is plain and unequivocal.
§ 7. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses, written upon two tables of stone; the first table containing the four first precepts, which teach the duty of man towards his Maker,—the second table, the six last, which instruct him in his duty towards his fellow creatures. His duty towards himself is implied in, and inseparably connected with, his fulfilment of all the requisitions of the moral code; for every personal sin violates the first table, and almost every one the second.
§ 8. The following compendium will shew the substance of the Ten Commandments, extracted according to the above-mentioned rules of interpretation.
IMMEDIATE DUTY TOWARDS GOD.
The unfeigned acknowledgement of the one true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Devotion of the whole heart to God above all things.
All thoughts, words, and actions, tending to the honour and glory of God.
The adoption of all means of acquiring and diffusing the knowledge and love of God.
The pure worship of God.
Atheism, Polytheism, profaneness, and speculative superstition.
All affections which are inconsistent with supreme devotedness to God.
All thoughts, words, and actions derogatory to the character of God.
Every thing tending to obscure the light of náture and revelation, and to prevent the diffusion of religious knowledge.
Idolatry, the paying of religious homage, or external worship, to any created being, or to any representation of the