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Ten Commandments Library Binding – April 30, 1958
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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It is not enough to hear God's voice, but we must obey. Obedience is a part of the honour we owe to God. "If then I be a Father, where is my honour?" (Mal. 1:6). Obedience carries in it the life-blood of religion. "Obey the voice of the Lord God" (Deut. 27:10), and do His commandments. Obedience without knowledge is blind, and knowledge without obedience is lame. Rachel was fair to look upon, but, being barren, said, "Give me children, or I die;" so, if knowledge does not bring forth the child of obedience, it will die. "To obey is better than sacrifice"
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After a lengthy introduction, the author digs deeply into the ten commandments. Each commandment is served up, much like a five course meal. Each exposition is filled with insight and pithy commentary. For instance, Watson contrasts the first and second commandments: "In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this (namely, the second commandment), worshipping the true God in a false manner." "God is to be adored in the heart, not painted to the eye." Watson draws the reader toward true worship and warns of false, idolatrous worship: "Take heed of all occasions of idolatry, for idolatry is devil-worship."
Clearly, Thomas Watson was a student of John Calvin and was well aware of his famous dictum: "The heart is an idol-factory." No doubt Watson was grieved by the rampant idolatry that was being churned out of the Roman Catholic Church. But he was also grieved with his own propensity toward idolatry. So he writes with zeal. He writes with passion. And he spurs readers toward the glory of God and prompts them to worship him alone!
Watson, though writing to a 17th century audience, speaks directly to the heart of America as he unfolds the meaning behind the third commandment: "[God] is not to be spoken of but with a holy awe upon our hearts. To bring his name in at every turn, when we are not thinking of him, to say, `O God!' or `O Christ!' is to take God's name in vain. How many are guilty here ... It is a wonder that fire does not come out from the Lord to consume them, as it did Nadab and Abihu."
Watson clearly articulates the utter inability for sinful men to keep the moral law. Indeed, "though man has lost his power of obeying, God has not lost his right in commanding." Watson indirectly confronts the heretic, Pelagius who believed that all men have the ability to carry out God's commands. His view concerning freewill is clear: "The will is not only full of weakness, but obstinacy ...The will hangs forth a flag of defiance against God."
The author is quick to point sinners to the cross of Christ: "Though a Christian cannot, in his own person, perform all God's commandments; yet Christ, as his Surety, and in his stead, has fulfilled the law for him: and God accepts of Christ's obedience, which is perfect, to satisfy for that obedience which is imperfect." Here is where Watson shines brightly. He constantly emphasizes the lost condition and utter hopelessness of sinners apart from grace. And he consistently stresses the life, death, and resurrection of Christ on behalf of God's elect.
The first section, Watson's introduction, looks at Christian obedience, love, the Preface to the Ten Commandments, and a right understanding of the moral law. He then proceeds in section two to look at each commandment in turn. The third chapter deals with the law and sin, specifically man's inability to keep the moral law, degrees of sin, and the wrath of God. The fourth and final section addresses the way of salvation, including faith & repentance, the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer.
Overall this book is excellent, practical, accessible, and enjoyable. The sections on the preface, the second and fourth commandments, and the wrath of God are the parts that particularly struck me. I rate this book four stars because I think there are a couple of commandments, especially the seventh and eighth, where Watson could have been a little more thorough, and perhaps gone a little deeper (imagine, a Puritan!). He also has some stories in there which (it grieves me to say this), strain credibility, like people being struck by lightening for profaning the Sabbath. But the seventeenth century was a different age, and if Watson goes a little overboard once in a while in his gullibility, he certainly makes up for it in careful attention to God's Word. Those stories do not make up a significant part of the book.
I am glad I read this book, although certain parts were not everything I hoped they would be. Several of the chapters are unsurpassed among books I have read, and overall Watson's treatment is thorough and robust. If you are one of the last few Christians who believe that the Ten Commandments still give us the moral law because they (all ten) are grounded in God's character, that they (all ten) still tell us what it means to be holy, and are the criteria, even though not the source, of our sanctification, I recommend Thomas Watson's little book to you. You will be spurred on in your Christian life, and brought to see again that "the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul."
He presents each commandment in clear, concise words and encourages us throughout. His exposition follows Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5 on the Law and brings it to light in a clear way.
In the exposition of the commands, Watson not only tells you the meaning of each commandment, but how it can be used in practical terms. This is a work you will want to use over and over again. This book is great for pastors, Sunday school teachers or Bible study leaders. This is a great tool. See also Watson's volume on the Lord's Prayer which is also a classic and his work The Body of Divinity which is his exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechisim.