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§ 3. Preface to the Ten Commandments.

“I am Jehovah thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Theism and Monotheism, the foundation of all religion, are taught in these words. The first clause is the preface or introduction to the decalogue. It presents the ground of obligation and the special motive by which obedience is enforced. 276It is because the commandments which follow are the words of God that they bind the conscience of all those to whom they are addressed. It is because they are the words of the covenant God and Redeemer of his people that we are specially bound to render them obedience.

History seems to prove that the question whether the Infinite is a person cannot be satisfactorily answered by the unassisted reason of man. The historical fact is, that the great majority of those who have sought the solution of that question on philosophical principles have answered it in the negative. It is impossible, therefore, duly to estimate the importance of the truth involved in the use of the pronoun “I” in these words. It is a person who is here presented. Of that person it is affirmed, first, that He is Jehovah; and secondly, that He is the covenant God of his people.

In the first place, in calling himself Jehovah, God reveals that He is the person known to his people by that name, and that He is in his nature all that that name imports. The etymology and signification of the name Jehovah seem to be given by God Himself in Exodus iii. 13, 14, where it is written, “Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them, and God said unto Moses, I am that I am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you.”

Jehovah, therefore, is the I am; a person always existing and always the same. Self-existence, eternity, and immutability are included in the signification of the word. This being the case, the name Jehovah is presented as the ground of confidence to the people of God; as in Deuteronomy xxxii. 40, and Isaiah xl. 28, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” These natural attributes, however, would be no ground of confidence if not associated with moral excellence. He who as Jehovah is declared to be infinite, eternal, and immutable in his being, no less infinite, eternal, and immutable in his knowledge, wisdom, holiness, goodness, and truth. Such is the Person whose commands are recorded in the decalogue.

In the second place, it is not only the nature of the Being who speaks, but the relation in which He stands to his people that is here revealed. “I am Jehovah thy God.” The word God has a 277definite meaning from which we are not at liberty to depart. We may not substitute for the idea which the word in Scripture and in ordinary language is intended to express, any arbitrary philosophical notion of our own. God is the Being, who, because He is all that the word Jehovah implies, is the proper object of worship, that is, of all the religious affections, and of their appropriate expression. He is, therefore, the only appropriate object of supreme love, adoration, gratitude, confidence, and submission. Him we are bound to trust and to obey.

Jehovah is not only God, but He says to his people collectively and individually, “I am thy God.” That is, not only the God whom his people are to acknowledge and worship, but who has entered into covenant with them; promising to be their God, to be all that God can be to his creatures and children, on condition that they consent to be his people. The special covenant which God formed with Abraham, and which was solemnly renewed at Mount Sinai, was that He would give to the children of Abraham the land of Palestine as their possession and bless them in that inheritance on condition that they kept the laws delivered to them by his servant Moses. And the covenant which He has made with the spiritual children of Abraham, is that He will be their God for time and eternity on condition that they acknowledge, receive, and trust his only begotten Son, the promised seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed. And as in this passage the redemption of the Hebrews from their bondage in Egypt is referred to as the pledge of God’s fidelity to his promise to Abraham, and the special ground of the obligation of the Hebrews to acknowledge Jehovah as their God; so the mission of the Eternal Son for the redemption of the world is at once the pledge of God’s fidelity to the promise made to our first parents after their fall, and the special ground of our allegiance to our covenant God and Father.

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