Expositions of the Ten Commandments

0’Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.’

Eccl. 12:13

‘I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy Law is my delight.’

Ps. 119:174

‘The Law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.’

Ps. 119:72

 

 

Order of Contents

Introduction
From Biblical Commentaries
From Catechisms and Commentaries Thereon
From Systematic Theologies
Shorter Works  (10)

Medium Length Works  (12)
Longer Works  (14)
An Ancient Jewish Exposition  (1)
For Children  (1)
Exposition in Poetry  (1)
The Ten Commandments in Poetry (4)

 

 

Introduction

Do you love God’s Law like the psalmist does? (Ps. 1:1-3; 119:174)  Like Jesus Christ does? (Ps. 40:8)  For your spiritual feeding, here is solid instruction on the whole duty of man and how to glorify God therein.

While we do not keep God’s Law in order to earn our salvation (which is through faith alone by the grace and righteousness of our Savior, Gal. 2:16), those who are born again through the Gospel and enlivened by the Holy Spirit seek to love, please and glorify God by doing what He says (Jn. 14:15; Lk. 3:10-14Rom. 7:221 Jn. 5:3) by faith and dependence upon Christ (Jn. 15:5; Phil. 4:13).  In doing so, we find that God’s Law is a light to our path (Ps. 119:105), for our good (Ps. 34:11-14; Prov. 3) and that the end thereof is blessing (Ps. 1:1-3Ex. 20:6,12; Jn. 15:10; Jm. 1:25Rev. 14:13).

The Ten Commandments, written in the Book of Nature (Rom. 2:14-15; 13:1-4) and in the Book of Special Revelation (in Ex. 20), are a summary form of God’s enduring Moral Law and part of the revelation of his will for us.  By peering into this spiritual law (Rom. 7:14) and all of its applications (Mt. 5:21-22; etc.), we find the whole duty of man wherein we are to walk.  

While we fall short of the glory of God, need his forgiveness daily (Mt. 6:11-12) and continue to struggle against sin with the Spirit’s impetus and help throughout our lives (Rom. 7), yet, we are freed from the power and bondage of the unremitted guilt and penalty of the Law (Rom. 6) in Christ, and find that God’s commandments are not grievous (1 Jn. 5:3Ex. 20:6) but are a Law of Liberty (Jm. 1:25), Christ’s yoke being easy and his burden light (Mt. 11:29-30).

Please read and digest with much faith, repentance and spiritual satisfaction these expositions of the Ten Commandments that God wrote with his own finger (Ex. 31:18).

* – Particularly recommended.  John Calvin, in the Medium Length section below, is required reading.  Calvin, Watson and Plumer rank among the best on the page.

*** – Charles Spurgeon used a three star scale

 

 

 

From Biblical Commentaries  See the comments on Exodus, Ch. 20

Whole Old Testament Commentaries  (60)

Whole Old Testament Commentaries  (11)

Old Testament Commentaries  see commentaries on the Pentateuch (6) and on Exodus (9)

 

 

From Catechisms and Commentaries Thereon

Heidelberg Catechism  Questions 91-115

Westminster Shorter Catechism  Questions 39-82

See also Commentaries on the Shorter Catechism  (151)

* Westminster Larger Catechism  Questions 91-152

See also Commentaries on the Larger Catechism (4) and Commentaries on the Westminster Confession and Catechisms  (3)

 

 

From Systematic Theologies

Many systematic theologies (especially from the Reformation and Puritan eras) contain an exposition of God’s Moral Law, the 10 Commandments.  See:

Every Reformed Systematic Theology Online

See, for instance, Wollebius, Ussher, Leigh, Turretin, A’Brakel and many others.

 

 

Shorter Works  (10)

Reformers

Gau, John – A Short Declaration of the Ten Commandments  †1553  14 pp., his The Right Way to the Kingdom of Heaven, pp. 11-25

Gau was an early Scottish Lutheran before the Reformation of 1560.

Puritans and English Divines

Perkins, William – The Whole Duty of Man, containing a Practical Table of the Ten Commandments wherein the sins forbidden, and the duties commanded, or implied are clearly discovered  †1602  ed. 1674  

Horne, Robert – A Short Exposition of the Ten Commandments in Questions and Answers  1617  39 pp.  in Points of Instruction for the Ignorant as also, an Expositition on the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer, by Questions and Answers. With an Examination before our coming to the Lord’s Table.  And a Short Direction for Spending of Time Well.

Horne (1565–1640) was an English divine.  See Wiki for a short bio. 

Yates, John – A Short and Brief Sum of Saving Knowledge Consisting of the Creed, Ten Commandments, Lords prayer and the Sacraments  ToC  1621

Yates (†1657) was a reformed, Church of England minister in St Andrews in Norwich.

Twisse, William – A Catechism Touching the Ten Commandments  1632  23 pp.  from A Brief Catechetical Exposition of Christian Doctrine, Divided into Four Catechisms, comprising the Doctrine of the 1. Two Sacraments. 2. Lord’s Prayer. 3. Ten Commandments. 4. And the Creed.

Twisse was one of the moderators of the Westminster Assembly.

Palmer, Herbert – Questions and Answers Tending to Explain the Ten Commandments  1644  7 pp. in An Endeavor of Making the Principles of Christian Religion, namely the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments

Palmer (1601-1647) was a Westminster Divine.

Fenner, William – Questions 58-104  37 pp.  in The Spiritual Man’s Directory guiding a Christian in the path that leads to true blessedness in his Three main duties towards God: how to believe, to obey, to pray, unfolding the Creed, Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer  GB   1648

Fenner (1600-1640) was a reformed, puritan minister.

Andrewes, Lancelot – ‘The Ten Commandments Paraphrased’ in Holy Devotions, with Directions to Pray, also a Brief Exposition upon the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the 7 penitential psalms, the 7 psalms of thanksgiving, together with a litany  1663  30 pp.

This is a very brief and simple exposition of the 10 commandments; much more accessible than his larger works below.

Later Anglicans

* Hole, Matthew – Discourse on the Ten Commandments  †1730  8 pp. in vol. 4 of Practical Discourses on the Liturgy of the Church of England

Hole (1640-1730) was a divine in the Church England.  See a short bio here.

* Scott, Thomas – A Brief Exposition of the Ten Commandments, as comprising the substance of the Moral Law  †1821  29 pp.  in Theological Works, vol. 5, Essay 4, pp. 64-93

Scott was an evangelical in the Church of England who was known for his whole commentary on the Bible, amongst other things.

 

 

 

Medium Length Works  (12)

Reformers

Hooper, John – A Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments of Almighty God wrotten Ex. 20, Deut. 5. Collected out of the Scripture Canonical  EEBO  1548  180 pp.

** – ‘After the manner of the English Reformers.  The style is harsh to the modern ear, and the matter too much occupied with the controversies raging in the author’s times to be very interesting now.’ – Spurgeon

* Calvin, John  †1564

‘Exposition of the Moral Law’  being Book 2, Ch. 8 of Institutes of the Christian Religion  Buy  see specifically sections 13-51, 43 pp.

Sermons on the Ten Commandments  1581  Buy

Puritans and other English and Scottish Divines

Knewstub, John – Lectures of John Knewstub, upon the Twentieth Chapter of Exodus, and certain other places of Scripture  ToC  1584

Knewstub was a moderate puritan, a follower of Thomas Cartwright and was proposed to succeed William Whitaker.

*‘More valuable for its antiquity than for anything else.’ – Spurgeon

Estey [Estye], George – An Exposition upon the Ten Commandments  1603  73 pp.  from Certain Godly and Learned Expositions upon Diverse Parts of Scripture as they were Preached

Estey (1560-1601) was a reformed Anglican.

Bunny, Francis – A Guide unto Godliness, or, A Plain and Familiar Explanation of the Ten Commandments, by Questions and Answers Fittest for the Instruction of the Simple and Ignorant People  ToC  1617

Bunny was a reformed prebendary in the Church of England, in Durham.

Whately, William – A Pithy, Short and Methodical Opening of the Ten Commandments  1622  256 pp.

Whately was a preacher Banburie in Oxford-shire.

** ‘Exceedingly scarce, but as rich as it is rare.’

Yates, John – A Model of Divinity, Catechistically Composed, wherein is Delivered the Matter and Method of Religion, according to the Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments  ToC  1622

Yates (†1657) was a reformed, English minister in St Andrews in Norwich.

Barker, Peter – A Judicious and Painful Exposition upon the Ten Commandments wherein the Text is opened, questions and doubts are resolved, errors confuted, and sundry instructions effectually applied, first delivered in several sermons…  ToC  1624

Barker (1597-1624) was a reformed minister in Dorsetshire, England.  ‘Painful’ in the title referred to taking great pains and labor to expound the text.

** – ‘Old-fashioned, remarkably quaint, and even coarse in places.  Barker’s work abounds in Scriptural illustrations, but it is almost forgotten.’ – Spurgeon

Downame, George – An Abstract of the Duties Commanded, and Sins Forbidden in the Law of God  1635  192 pp.

**‘A sort of catalogue of sins, arranged in a tabular form under the Ten Commandments.  These are the heads and divisions of a larger treatise, which does not appear to have been published.  These mighty men could afford to leave in the oblivion of manuscript works which would cost modern weaklings half a life-time to write.’ – Spurgeon

* Fisher, Edward – Part 2 of The Marrow of Modern Divinity  pp. 265-317  1646  52 pp.  This is in the form of a dialogue.  Evangelista is the good guy; Nomista is the legalist.

**‘This exposition is part of the work which occasioned the famous Marrow controversy.  One fails to see anything calculated to stir up such a strife.  Fisher might have said that the lines had fallen to him in troubled waters.’ – Spurgeon

Leighton, Robert – An Exposition of the Ten Commandments  Buy  †1684  66 pp., in Works, vol. 3, pp. 107-173

Leighton was one of the few good and godly bishops in late-1600’s Scotland.

* Watson, Thomas – Body of Practical Divinity, pp. 211-328  †1686  117 pp.  This work is an exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism

1700’s Anglicans

Edwards, John – vol. 2 of Theologia Reformata: or, The Body and Substance of the Christian Religion, comprised in distinct discourses or treatises upon the Apostles creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the Ten Commandments; in two volumes  1713

John Edwards (1637–1716) was an influential reformed Anglican during the early 1700’s, and the son of Thomas Edwards, who wrote the famed book ‘Gangraena’ in the 1640’s.

* Hole, Matthew – Discourses 1-26, pp. 367-547 of vol.2 of A Practical Exposition of the Church Catechism  †1730  

Hole (1640-1730) was a divine in the Church England.  See a short bio here.

1900’s

* Vos, Johannes – The Westminster Larger Catechism, a Commentary  ed. G.I. Williamson  Buy  originally written 1946-49  614 pp.

Vos was a mid-western pastor in the RPCNA.  This is the most accessible and usable commentary on the Larger Catechism.  It is a medium level treatment and is in the format of questions and answers, which is well done.

 

 

 

 

Longer Works  (14)

Reformer

Bullinger, Henry – Commandments 1-7 & 8-10  †1571  334 pp. in The Decades, 2nd Decade, 2nd Sermon through 3rd Decade, 3rd Sermon

Puritans and other English, Irish and Scottish Divines

* Babington, Gervase – A Very Fruitful Exposition of the Commandments by way of Questions and Answers for greater plainness together with an application of every one to the soul and conscience of man, profitable for all  1583  

Babington (1549–1610) was a bishop in the Church of England.

* Dod, John & Robert Cleaver – A Plain and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandments. With a methodical short Catechism, containing briefly the principal grounds of Christian religion  1st ed. 1603, 15th ed. 1622  380 pp.

For a taste of this exceedingly wise and fruitful work, see the section, ‘Duties of Husbands and Wives’ from the 5th Commandment.

** – ‘This work was published by John Dod [1550-1645] and Robert Cleaver [c. 1561-c. 1614], with an intimation that the name of the author was purposely suppressed.  Our edition, dated 1632, is the eighteenth, so that the work enjoyed a rare popularity in its own time.  It has been frequently reprinted since.  The book has been long held in esteem.’ – Spurgeon

Elton, Edward  1569-1624

An Exposition of the Ten Commandments of God wherein the principal and most material doctrines are set down  ToC  1623

God’s Holy Mind Touching Matters moral which Himself uttered in Ten Words, or Ten Commandments. Also Christ’s holy mind touching prayer, delivered in that most holy prayer, which Himself taught unto his disciples: discovered by the light of his own holy writ, and delivered by questions and answers  ToC  1625

*‘This work discusses the Decalogue in question and answer, in a somewhat dull manner; but touches many cases of conscience, and deals wisely with them.  Belief in witchcraft comes out very strongly in some passages.’ – Spurgeon

Weemes, John – An Explication of the Moral Law, the First Table (300 pp.), the Second Table (360 pp.)  1632, 1636

Weemes was a Scottish Covenanter.

** ‘Solid, sober, weighty.  [William] Orme says of Weemse: ‘He was well acquainted with the original Scriptures, with Jewish manners and antiquities, and with the best mode of interpreting the Bible.  The style is quaint, but always intelligible.”

Andrewes, Lacelot  †1626

The Moral Law Expounded: Largely, Learnedly, Orthodoxly… upon the Ten Commandments, being his Lectures in Cambridge  1641  786 pp.

This work is different than the one below.

* A Pattern of Catechistical Doctrine at large; or a Learned and Pious Exposition of the 10 Commandments  EEBO  1675  392

Andrewes (1555-1626) was the Church of England, reformed bishop of Worchester.

***‘This is a book indeed; it is a joy to read it, for it flashes with thought and illustration, and sparkles with ingenious remarks.  Profound learning did not lead the Bishop into the depths of dulness, as it has done many another divine; he manifests the happy quaintness of Latimer side by side with great scholarship.  He was highly esteemed by his contemporaries; but we can hardly believe that his death:

‘Left the dim face of our full hemisphere
All one great eye all drown’d in one great tear.’

Yet so we are informed at the foot of his effigies.’ – Spurgeon

* Durham, James – The Law Unsealed, or a Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments  EEBO  Buy  †1658  500 pp.

Durham was a leading Scottish covenanter during the 2nd Reformation in Scotland.

*** ‘Whatever Durham has written is very precious.  He has the pen of a ready writer, and indites good matter.’

* Hopkins, Ezekiel – An Exposition of the Ten Commandments  1692  450 pp.

Hopkins was an Anglican divine who was a bishop in Derry, Ireland.

** – ‘Hopkins in this exposition searches the heart thoroughly, and makes very practical application of the Commandments to the situations and circumstances of daily life.  His homely eloquence will always make his works valuable.’ – Spurgeon

‘A brilliantly written treatise by a leading Puritan writer.  Long out of print, it should be purchased if found.’ – Cyril J. Barber

.

The 1700’s

* Boston, Thomas – An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, vol. 2, pp. 307 ff. & vol. 3, pp. 1-176   †1732

Boston was a minister in the Church of Scotland.  This work is a commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Ridgley, Thomas – A Body of Divinity, vol. 2 (Questions #99-148)  PoD  d. 1734  106 pp.

This was the first commentary published on the Larger Catechism, being a series of sermons through it.  Ridgley (1667-1734) was a reformed, English Independent, who was the assistant and successor of Thomas Gouge in London.

The 1800’s

Tudor, Richard – The Decalogue Viewed as the Christian’s Law  1860  440 pp.

**‘The author attempts to give the Christian sense of the Decalogue in its application to present needs and questions.  With much moderation he discusses many of the disputed points  of the day, such as the legislative enforcement of the Sabbath, marriage with a deceased wife’s sister [which the 1646 Westminster Confession speaks to], etc.  He usually takes the view which is natural to a clergyman; but he says some capital things.’ – Spurgeon

* Plumer, William – The Law of God as Contained in the Ten Commandments, Explained and Enforced  1864  645 pp.

 

 

 

An Ancient Jewish Exposition  (1)

Philo, from Works, vol. 3

Concerning the Ten Commandments which are the Heads of the Law, pp. 136-387  250 pp.

Philo (†50) was an important Jewish historian, commentator and theologian in Alexandria, Egypt during the time of Christ.

 

 

 

For Children  (see also the short poetic versions below)

* Newton, Richard – The King’s Highway  Buy  1861  380 pp.

***‘Though intended for children, ministers will find it useful, for it teems with illustrations, and brings up little points of conduct worth touching upon.  Dr. Newton is the prince of preachers to children.’

 

 

An Exposition in Poetry

* Wither, George – Divine Poems (by way of Paraphrase) on the Ten Commandments  †1677  ed. 1688  110 pp.

 

 

 

The Ten Commandments in Poetry  (3, shortest to longest)

The New England Primer, ‘The Ten Commandments put into Short and Easy Rhymes for Children’

1. You shall have no more gods but Me.
2. Before no idol bend your knee.
3. Take not the name of God in vain.
4. Dare not the Sabbath Day profane.
5. Give both your parents honor due.
6. Take heed that you no murder do.
7. Abstain from words and deeds unclean.
8. Steal not, though you be poor and mean [lowly].
9. Make not a willful lie, nor love it.
10. What is your neighbor’s, dare not covet.

 

Robert Horne, A Brief Rehearsal of the Ten Commandments 1617

1. See that thou have no God’s but one
2. and truly worship Him alone.
3. God’s name in vain thou shalt not take.
4. The seventh day holy thou shalt make.
5. Honor thy parents.
6. Murder flee:
7. A fornicator never be.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. False speech eschew
10. and covet not another’s due.

 

 

George Wither (1588-1667)

From Divine Poems (by way of Paraphrase) on the Ten Commandments  1688

1. Serve but one God, and let Him be
.      that God who made and ransom’d thee.

2. Let every hand and heart refrain
.      a
n image of our God, to fain.

3. If thou wilt free be kept from blame;
.      take not in vain, GOD’s holy NAME.

4. To hallow, do not thou forget
.      those times, which God apart hath set.

5. On them all honors due, bestow,
.      who, by the name of parents go.

6. Thy Maker’s image do not spill,
.      where God commands thee not to kill.

7. Commit thou no such act unclean,
.      as here adultery, doth mean.

8. What want so e’re oppress thee may
.      steal not, another’s goods away.

9. In any case no witness bear,
.      of things which false or doubtful are.

10. Another’s right desire not,
.       but be contented with thy lot.

 

 From Hymns and Songs of the Church Divided into Two Parts  1623

The great Almighty spake, and thus said He:

I am the LORD thy GOD, and I alone
from cruel Egypt’s thralldom set thee free;

(1) And other gods but Me thou shalt have none.

(2) Thou shalt not make an image to adore
of ought on earth above it or below:
a carved work thou shalt not bow before,
nor any worship on the same bestow.

For I thy GOD, a jealous GOD am known,
and on their seed the fathers’ sins correct
until the third and fourth descent be gone,
but them I always love that me affect.

(3) The Name of GOD thou never shalt abuse
by swearing or repeating it in vain:
for him that doth his Name profanely use,
The LORD will as a guilty-one arraign.

(4) To keep the Sabbath holy, bear in mind:
Six days thine own affairs apply thou to;
the seventh is GOD’s own day for rest assign’d,
and thou no kind of work therein shalt do:
thou, nor thy child, thy servants, nor the beast;
nor he that guest-wise with thee doth abide,
for, after six days labor GOD did rest
and therefore He that day hath sanctified.

(5) See that unto thy parents thou do give
such honor as the child by duty owes,
that thou a long and blessed life mayst live
within the land the LORD thy GOD bestows.

(6) Thou shalt be wary that thou no man slay.

(7) Thou shalt from all adultery be clear.

(8) Thou shalt not steal another’s good away,

(9) nor witness-false against thy neighbor bear.

(10) With what is thine remaining well apaid,
thou shalt not covet what thy neighbor’s is:
his house, nor wife, his servant, man, nor maid,
his ox, nor ass, nor anything of his.

 

 

 

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Old Testament Commentaries

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Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will as His Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish

Historic Reformed Quotes on God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call as Being His Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Distinction Between God’s Revealed Will and his Will of Decree

Covenant of Grace

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Degrees of Punishment in Hell