THE SECOND TABLE OF THE LAW
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT OF WHICH IS THE FIFTH OF THE LAW
The Fifth Commandment
12. Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
12. Honora patrem tuum et matrem tuam-- ut prorogentur dies tui super terram quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi.
16. Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
16. Honora patrem tuum et matrem tuam, quemadmodum praecepit tibi Jehova, Deus tuus: ut prorogentur dies tui et ut bene sit tibi super terram quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi.
I am not ignorant that the Tables of the Law are usually divided in a different manner;1 for those, who make only one of the first two Commandments, are obliged finally to mangle the last. Thus the prohibition of God to covet either our neighbor's wife or his house, is foolishly separated into two parts, whereas it is quite clear that only one thing is treated of, as we gather from the words of Paul, who quotes them as a single Commandment. (Romans 7:7.) There is, however, no need of a lengthened discussion here, since the fact itself explains how one error has grown out of another; for, when they had improperly hidden the Second Commandment under the First, and consequently did not find the right number, they were forced to divide into two parts what was one and indivisible. A frivolous reason is assigned by Augustine why they comprised the First Table in three commandments, viz., that believers might learn to worship God in the Trinity, and thus to adore one God in three persons. By inconsiderately trifling with such subtleties, they have exposed God's law to the mockeries of the ungodly. Josephus2 indeed rightly enumerates the Commandments themselves in their proper order, but improperly attributes five Commandments to each Table; as if God had had regard to arithmetic rather than to instruct His people separately in the duties of charity, after having laid down for them the rules of piety. For up to this point the rule of rightly serving God has been delivered, i.e., the First Table embraces a summary of piety; and now the Law will begin to show how men ought to live with each other, otherwise one Table would have been enough, nor would God have divided his Law without a purpose. But whereas piety3 and justice comprise the perfect rule for the direction of our lives, it was necessary to distinguish these two parts, that the people might understand the object of the Law, of which we shall again speak hereafter.
The name of the mothers is expressly
It will be now well to ascertain what is the force of the word "honor," not as to its grammatical meaning, (for
The third head of honor is, that children should take care of their parents, and be ready and diligent in all their duties towards them. This kind of piety the Greeks call
Now, although the parental name ought, by its own sweetness, sufficiently to attract children to ready submission, still a promise is added as a stimulus, in order that they may more cheerfully bestir themselves to pay the honor which is enjoined upon them. Paul, therefore, that children may be more willing to obey their parents, reminds us that this "is the first commandment with promise," (Ephesians 6:2;) for although a promise is annexed to the Second Commandment, yet it is not a special one, as we perceive this to be. The reward, that the days of children who have behaved themselves piously to their parents shall be prolonged, aptly corresponds with the observance of the commandment, since in this manner God gives us a proof of His favor in this life, when we have been grateful to those to whom we are indebted for it; whilst it is by no means just that they should greatly prolong their life who despise those progenitors by whom they have been brought into it. Here the question arises, since this earthly life is exposed to so many cares, and pains, and troubles, how can God account its prolongation to be a blessing? But whereas all cares spring from the curse of God, it is manifest that they are accidental; and thus, if life be regarded in itself, it does not cease to be a proof of God's favor. Besides, all this multitude of miseries does not destroy the chief blessing of life, viz., that men are created and preserved unto the hope of a happy immortality; for God now manifests Himself to them as a Father, that hereafter they may enjoy His eternal inheritance. The knowledge of this, like a lighted lamp, causes God's grace to shine forth in the midst of darkness. Whence it follows, that those had not tasted the main thing in life,6 who have said that the best thing was not to be born, and the next best thing to be cut off as soon as possible; whereas God rather so exercises men by various afflictions, as that it should be good for them nevertheless to be created in His image, and to be accounted His children. A clearer explanation also is added in Deuteronomy, not only that they should live, but that it
The natural sense itself dictates to us that we should obey rulers. If servants obey not their masters, the society of the human race is subverted altogether. It is not, therefore, the least essential part of righteousness7that the people should willingly submit themselves to the command of magistrates, and that servants should obey their masters; and, consequently, it would be very absurd if it were omitted in the Law of God. In this commandment, then, as in the others, God by synecdoche embraces, under a specific rule, a general principle, viz., that lawful commands should obtain due reverence from us. But that all things should not be distinctly expressed, first of all brevity itself readily accounts for; and, besides, another reason is to be noticed, i.e. that God designedly used a homely style in addressing a rude people, because He saw its expediency. If He had said generally, that all superiors were to be obeyed, since, pride is natural to all, it would not have been easy to incline the greater part of men to pay submission to a few. Nay, since subjection is naturally disagreeable, many would have kicked against it. God, therefore, propounds a specific kind of subjection, which it would have been gross barbarism to refuse, that thus, their ferocity being gradually subdued, He might accustom men to bear the yoke. Hence the exhortations are derived, that people should "honor the king;" that "every soul should be subject unto the higher powers;" that "servants should obey their masters, even the froward and morose." (Proverbs 24:21; 1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1; Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 2:14, 18.)
1 See Becon's Catechism, part 3, (Parker Society's edition,) p. 60, et seq. See also Bullinger's Decades, (Parker Society,) vol. 1. p. 212; and Hooper's Early Writings, (Parker Society,) pages 349-351; and Calvin's Institutes, lib. 2. cap. 8, Section 12. It appears that this error may be traced to Augustine, (Quaest. in Exodus 71, and Ep. ad. Jan. 119,) who, without omitting the Second Commandment, divided the precepts of the First Table into three, on the supposition that their number was allusive to the Trinity. He, however, contradicts himself elsewhere, (Quaest. Vet. et Novi Test., lib. 1:7;) but Peter Lomb. adopts his erroneous division, and separates the Tenth Commandment into two parts. (Lib. 3, Distinct. 37 and 40.)
2 See Jewish Antiq., book 3. chap. 5. Section 5. In sect. 8 it is added: "When he had said this he showed them two tables, with the ten commandments engraven upon them, five upon each table; and the writing was by the hand of God."
3 "La piete que nous devons a Dieu, et l'equite que nous devons a nos prochains;" the piety which we owe to God, and the equity which we owe to our neighbors. -- Fr.
4 There is a delightful illustration of this point, which will occur to many, related in More's Life of Sir Thomas More, ch. 6. Section 5, -- "Now it was a comfortable thing for ante man to behold how two great rooms of Westminster-hall were taken up, one with the son, the other with the father, which hath as yet never been heard of before or since, the son to be Lord Chancellor, and the father, Sir John More, to be one of the ancientest Judges of the King's Bench, if not the eldest of all; for now he was near 90 year old. Yea, what a grateful spectacle was it, to see the son ask the father's blessing every day upon his knees, before he sat in his own seat, a thing expressing rare humility, exemplar obedience, and submissive piety."
5 "Let us consider what is meant by the Gentiles'
The Fr. concludes the sentence thus: "et ainsi nous sont comme maistresses pour nous apprendre a recognoistre le bien que nous avons receu de ceux qui nous ont mis au monde et elevez;" and so are, as it were, our mistresses to teach us to repay the benefits of those who have brought us into the world and reared us.
6 This famous sentiment of antiquity is found in the Elegies of Theognis, some 500 years B.C., --
Mhd j ejsidei~n aujgav ojxe>ov hjeli>v.
Fu>nta d j o[pwv w]kiva pu>lav aji`>daw perh~sai
Kai< kei+sqai pollh<n gh~n ejpamhsa>menon.
It is also reported by Plutarch, in his
7 "Pars justiciae non postrema." -- Lat. "Une partie de la justice, qui nous devons tous garder;" a part of righteousness which we ought all to observe. -- Fr.