‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.’
‘I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy Law is my delight.’
‘The Law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.’
Order of Contents
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. 3:10-14; Rom. 7:22; 1 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. 1:1-3; Ex. 20:6,12; Jn. 15:10; Jm. 1:25; Rev. 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. 5:3; Ex. 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
Shorter Works 10+
Gau, John – A Short Declaration of the Ten Commandments (†1553) in The Right Way to the Kingdom of Heaven, pp. 11-25
Gau was an early Scottish Lutheran before the Reformation of 1560.
Bradford, John d. 1555 English reformer and martyr
A Meditation upon the Ten Commandments 25 pp. in Writings, vol. 1
Prayer on the Ten Commandments in Writings, vol. 2, pp. 256-263
Becon, Thomas – The Ten Commandments of God, with Confirmations of Every Commandment out of the Holy Scripture (d. 1567) 9 pp. in Catechism English reformer
Horne, Robert – A Short Exposition of the Ten Commandments in Questions & 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 & Answers…
Horne (1565–1640) was an English divine. See Wiki for a short bio.
Yates, John – A Short & Brief Sum of Saving Knowledge Consisting of the Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer & the Sacraments (1621) no page numbers
Yates (†1657) was a reformed, Church of England minister in St Andrews in Norwich.
Boys, John – The Decalogue in Works, pp. 45-58 1629
Scudder, Henry – pp. 93-110 of The Christian’s Daily Walk (1631) Westminster divine
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 & 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.
Patrick, Simon – pp. 1-6 of A Brief Exposition of the Ten Commandments & the Lord’s Prayer (London, 1665)
Patrick (1626–1707) was an Anglican bishop and theologian.
* 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 (14+)
** – ‘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
Cranmer, Thomas – A Short Instruction Concerning the Ten Commandments (d. 1566) being 10 sermons in A Short Instruction into Christian Religion, pp. 3-97 English reformer
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 & Learned Expositions upon Diverse Parts of Scripture as they were Preached…
Estey (1560-1601) was a reformed Anglican.
Granger, Thomas – The Tree of Good & Evil: or a Profitable & Familiar Exposition of the Commandments, directing us in the whole course of our life, according to the Rule of God’s Word, whereby we must be Judged at the Last Day (London, 1616)
Granger (1578-1627) was reformed.
Bunny, Francis – A Guide unto Godliness, or, A Plain & Familiar Explanation of the Ten Commandments, by Questions & Answers Fittest for the Instruction of the Simple & Ignorant People (1617) 232 pp. ToC
Bunny was a reformed prebendary in the Church of England, in Durham.
Whately, William – A Pithy, Short & Methodical Opening of the Ten Commandments (1622) 256 pp.
Whately was a preacher at Banburie in Oxford-shire.
** – ‘Exceedingly scarce, but as rich as it is rare.’
Yates, John – ch. 1, ‘Of the Law’ in A Model of Divinity, Catechistically Composed, wherein is Delivered the Matter & Method of Religion, according to the Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer & the Sacraments (1622), bk. 2, pp. 297-321
Yates (†1657) was a reformed, English minister in St Andrews in Norwich.
A Judicious & Painful Exposition upon the Ten Commandments wherein the Text is Opened, Questions & Doubts are Resolved, Errors Confuted & Sundry Instructions Effectually Applied, first delivered in Several Sermons… (1624) 316 pp.
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
A Learned & Familiar Exposition upon the Ten Commandments (London: 1633) 2nd ed. much enlarged
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
Despagne (1591-1659) was a French, reformed minister.
Barrow, Isaac – ‘An Exposition of the Decalogue’ in A Brief Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer and the Decalogue, to which is Added the Doctrine of the Sacraments (d. 1677; London, 1681), pp. 63-200
Barrow (1630-1677) was an Anglican Christian theologian and mathematician who discovered the fundamental theorem of calculus. Isaac Newton was a student of his.
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
Edwards, John – 3rd Part, ‘Of the Ten Commandments’ in Theologia Reformata: or, The Body and Substance of the Christian Religion, comprised in distinct discourses or treatises… (1713), vol. 2, pp. 273-619
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 in A Practical Exposition of the Church Catechism, vol. 2 (†1730), pp. 367-547
Hole (1640-1730) was a divine in the Church England. See a short bio here.
* Vos, Johannes – The Westminster Larger Catechism, a Commentary ed. G.I. Williamson Buy (1946-1949) 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 15+
* Babington, Gervase – A Very Fruitful Exposition of the Commandments by way of Questions & 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
For a taste of this exceedingly wise and fruitful work, see the section, ‘Duties of Husbands & 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
These two works are significantly different.
God’s Holy Mind touching matters Moral, which Himself uttered in Ten Words, or Ten Commandments… 380 pp. in 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… (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
Willet, Andrew – Hexapla in Genesis & Exodus… (d. 1621; 1633, London), pp. 263-371
Weemes was a Scottish divine.
** – ‘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.”
This work is different than the one below.
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.’
Towerson, Gabriel – An Explication of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments, with reference to the Catechism of the Church of England, to which are Premised by Way of Introduction Several General Discourses Concerning God’s Both Natural & Positive Laws (London, 1677) 548 pp.
Towerson (c.1635-1697) was an Anglican clergyman and theological writer.
* 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
* Boston, Thomas – pp. 66-373 of An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion in Works (†1732), vol. 2
Boston was a minister in the Church of Scotland. This work is a commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
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.
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.
From Biblical Commentaries See the comments on Exodus, Ch. 20
Old Testament Commentaries see commentaries on the Pentateuch (6) and on Exodus (9)
From Catechisms & 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
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:
See, for instance, Musculus, Vermigli, Viret, Ursinus, Wollebius, Ussher, Leigh, Turretin, A’Brakel and many others.
ch. 5 in Lectures on Deuteronomy in Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1960), 9:61-64
‘The Ten Commandments’ in The Large Catechism
Ten Sermons on the Catechism (1528) in Luther Works ed. & trans. John W. Doberstein (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 51:133-93
Treatise on Good Works (1520) trans. W. A. Lambert in Luther Works, ed. James Atkinson (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 44:15-114
‘On the Law’ in Common Places in:
‘Divine Laws’ in ‘The Law’ in Melanchthon & Bucer (1521 ed.) ed. Wilhelm Pauck (Louisville: WJKP, 1969), pp. 53-57
ch. 7, ‘Of Divine Law’ in Melanchthon on Christian Doctrine, Loci Communes, 1555 trans. Clyde L. Manschreck (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1965), pp. 83-129
The Chief Theological Topics: Loci Praecipui Theologici 1559 Buy (Concordia Publishing, 2011) 549 pp.
This was the last expansion and revision of the common places before Melanchthon’s death in 1560.
An Ancient Jewish Exposition 1
Philo, from Works, vol. 3
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)
*** – ‘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.’
The Ten Commandments in Poetry (4, 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)
1. Serve but one God, and let Him be
. that God who made and ransom’d thee.
2. Let every hand and heart refrain
. an 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.
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.
An Exposition in Poetry
* Wither, George – Divine Poems (by way of Paraphrase) on the Ten Commandments (†1677; 1688) 110 pp.
Svensson, Manfred & David S. Sytsma – ‘III. Commentaries and Loci on the Decalogue’ in A Bibliography of Early Modern Protestant Ethics (ca. 1520-1750) (2020), pp. 24-35. Includes entries in multiple languages and attempts to be a collation of all the protestant works on the Decalogue in the early modern era.
All of the entries in English from this bibliography are on this webpage.