The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
'Take heed, and hearken, O Israel; this day thou art become the
people of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of
the Lord thy God, and do his commandments.' Deut xxvii 9, 10.
What is the duty which God requireth of man?
Obedience to his revealed will.
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 i 6. Obedience carries in it the
life-blood of religion. 'Obey the voice of the Lord God,' 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.' I Sam xv 22. Saul thought it was enough for
him to offer sacrifices, though he disobeyed God's command; but 'to
obey is better than sacrifice.' God disclaims sacrifice, if
obedience be wanting. 'I spake not unto your fathers concerning
burnt offerings, but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my
voice.' Jer vii 22. Nor but that God did enjoin those religious rites
of worship; but the meaning is that he looked chiefly for obedience
- without which, sacrifice was but devout folly. The end why God has
given us his laws, is obedience. 'Ye shall do my judgements, and
keep mine ordinances.' Lev xviii 4. Why does a king publish an edict,
but that it may be observed?
What is the rule of obedience?
The written word. That is proper obedience which the word
requires; our obedience must correspond with the word, as the copy
with the original. To seem to be zealous, if it be not according to
the word, is not obedience, but will-worship. Popish traditions
which have no footing in the word, are abominable; and God will say,
Quis quaesivit haec? 'Who has required this at your hand?' Isa i
12. The apostle condemns the worshipping of angels, which had a show
of humility. Col ii 18. The Jews might say they were loath to be so
bold as to go to God in their own persons; they would be more
humble, and prostrate themselves before the angels, and desire them
to present their petitions to God; but this show of humility was
hateful to God, because there was no word to warrant it.
What are the ingredients in our obedience that make it
(1) It must be cum animi prolubio, free and cheerful, or it is
penance, not sacrifice. 'If ye be willing and obedient.' Isa i 19.
Though we serve God with weakness, it may be with willingness. You
love to see your servants go cheerfully about their work. Under the
law, God will have a free-will offering. Deut xvi 10. Hypocrites
obey God grudgingly, and against their will; facere bonum, but not
velle [they do good but not willingly]. Cain brought his sacrifice,
but not his heart. It is a true rule, Quicquid cor non facit, non
fit; what the heart does not do, is not done. Willingness is the
soul of obedience. God sometimes accepts of willingness without the
work, but never of the work without willingness. Cheerfulness shows
that there is love in the duty; and love is to our services what the
sun is to fruit; it mellows and ripens them, and makes them come off
with a better relish.
(2) Obedience must be devout and fervent. 'Fervent in spirit,'
&c. Rom xii 11. Quae ebullit prae ardore. As water that boils over;
so the heart must boil over with hot affections in the service of
God. The glorious angels, who, for burning in fervour and devotion,
are called seraphims, are chosen by God to serve him in heaven. The
snail under the law was unclean, because a dull, slothful creature.
Obedience without fervency, is like a sacrifice without fire. Why
should not our obedience be lively and fervent? God deserves the
flower and strength of our affections. Domitian would not have his
statue carved in wood or iron, but made of gold. Lively affections
make golden services. It is fervency that makes obedience
acceptable. Elijah was fervent in spirit, and his prayer opened and
shut heaven; and again he prayed, and fire fell on his enemies. 2
Kings i 10. Elijah's prayer fetched fire from heaven, because,
being fervent, it carried fire up to heaven; quicquid decorum ex
fide proficiscitur. Augustine.
(3) Obedience must be extensive, it must reach to all God's
commands. 'Then shall I not be ashamed (or, as it is in the Hebrew,
lo Ehosh, blush), when I have respect unto all thy commandments.'
Psa cxix 6. Quicquid propter Deum fit aequaliter fit [All God's
requirements demand equal effort]. There is a stamp of divine
authority upon all God's commands, and if I obey one precept because
God commands, I must obey all. True obedience runs through all
duties of religion, as the blood through all the veins, or the sun
through all the signs of the zodiac. A good Christian makes gospel
piety and moral equity kiss each other. Herein some discover their
hypocrisy they will obey God in some things which are more facile,
and may raise their repute; but other things they leave undone. 'One
thing thou lackest,' unum deest. Mark x 21. Herod would hear John
Baptist, but not leave his incest. Some will pray, but not give
alms, others will give alms, but not pray. 'Ye pay tithe of mint and
anise, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement,
mercy and faith.' Matt xxiii 23. The badger has one foot shorter than
the other; so these are shorter in some duties than in others. God
likes not such partial servants, who will do some part of the work
he sets them about, and leave the other undone.
(4) Obedience must be sincere. We must aim at the glory of God
in it. Finis specificat actionem; in religion the end is all. The
end of our obedience must not be to stop the mouth of conscience, or
to gain applause or preferment; but that we may grow more like God,
and bring more glory to him. 'Do all to the glory of God.' 1 Cor x
31. That which has spoiled many glorious actions, and made them lose
their reward, is, that men's aims have been wrong. The Pharisees
gave alms, but blew a trumpet that they might have the glory of men.
Matt vi 2. Alms should shine, but not blaze. Jehu did well in
destroying the Baal-worshippers, and God commended him for it; but,
because his aims were not good (for he aimed at settling himself in
the kingdom), God looked upon it as no better than murder. 'I will
avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.' Hos i 4. O let
us look to our ends in obedience; it is possible the action may be
right, and not the heart. 2 Chron xxv 2. Amaziah did that which was
right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart. Two
things are chiefly to be eyed in obedience, the principle and the
end. Though a child of God shoots short in his obedience, he takes a
(5) Obedience must be in and through Christ. 'He has made us
accepted in the beloved.' Eph i 6. Not our obedience, but Christ's
merits procure acceptance. In every part of worship we must present
Christ to God in the arms of our faith. Unless we serve God thus, in
hope and confidence of Christ's merits, we rather provoke him than
please him. As, when king Uzziah would offer incense without a
priest, God was angry with him, and struck him with leprosy (2 Chron
xxvi 20); So, when we do not come to God in and through Christ, we
offer up incense to him without a priest, and what can we expect but
(6) Obedience must be constant. 'Blessed [is] he that does
righteousness at all times.' Psa cvi 3. True obedience is not like
a high colour in a fit, but it is a right complexion. It is like the
fire on the altar, which was always kept burning. Lev vi13.
Hypocrites' obedience is but for a season; it is like plastering
work, which is soon washed off; but true obedience is constant.
Though we meet with affliction, we must go on in our obedience. 'The
righteous shall hold on his way.' Job xvii 9. We have vowed
constancy; we have vowed to renounce the pomps and vanities of the
world, and to fight under Christ's banner to death. When a servant
has entered into covenant with his master, and the indentures are
sealed, he cannot go back, he must serve out his time; so there are
indentures drawn in baptism, and in the Lord's Supper the indentures
are renewed and scaled on our part, that we will be faithful and
constant in our obedience; therefore we must imitate Christ, who
became obedient unto death. Phil ii 8. The crown is set upon the
head of perseverance. 'He that keepeth my works unto the end, I will
give him the morning star.' Rev ii 26, 28.
This condemns those who live in contradiction to the
text, and have cast off the yoke of obedience. 'As for the word that
thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not
hearken unto thee.' Jer xliv 16. God bids men pray in their family,
but they live in the total neglect of it; he bids them sanctify the
Sabbath, but they follow their pleasures on that day; he bids them
abstain from the appearance of sin, but they do not abstain from the
act; they live in the act of revenge, and in the act of uncleanness.
This is a high contempt of God; it is rebellion, and rebellion is as
the sin of witchcraft.
Whence is it that men do not obey God? They know their duty,
but do it not.
(1) The not obeying God is for want of faith. Quis credidit?
'Who has believed our report?' Isa liii 1 Did men believe sin were
so bitter, that hell followed at the heels of it, would they go on
in sin? Did they believe there was such a reward for the righteous,
that godliness was gain, would they not pursue it; but they are
atheists, not fully brought into the belief of these things; hence
it is that they obey not. Satan's master-piece, his draw-net by
which he drags millions to hell, is to keep them in infidelity; he
knows, if he can but keep them from believing the truth, he is sure
to keep them from obeying it.
(2) The not obeying God is for want of self-denial. God
commands one thing, and men's lusts command another; and they will
rather die than deny their lusts. If lust cannot be denied, God
cannot be obeyed.
Obey God's voice. This is the beauty of a Christian.
What are the great arguments or incentives to obedience?
(1) Obedience makes us precious to God, his favourites. 'If ye
will obey my voice, ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above
all people;' you shall be my portion, my jewels, the apple of mine
eye. Exod xix 5. 'I will give kingdoms for your ransom.' Isa xliii 3.
(2) There is nothing lost by obedience. To obey God's will is
the wav to have our will.  Would we have a blessing in our
estates? Let us obey. God. 'If thou shalt hearken to the voice of
the Lord, to do all his commandments, blessed shalt thou be in the
field blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.' Deut xxviii 1, 3, 5.
To obey is the best way to thrive in your estates. [21 Would we have
a blessing in our souls? Let us obey God. Obey, and I will be your
God.' Jer vii 23. My Spirit shall be your guide, sanctifier, and
comforter. Christ 'became the author of eternal salvation unto all
them that obey him.' Heb v 9. While we please God, we please
ourselves; while we give him the duty, he gives us the dowry. We are
apt to say, as Amaziah, 'What shall we do for the hundred talents?'
2 Chron xxv 9. You lose nothing by obeying. The obedient son has the
inheritance settled on him. Obey, and you shall have a kingdom. 'It
is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' Luke xii
(3) What a sin is disobedience!  It is an irrational sin. We
are not able to stand it out in defiance against God. 'Are we
stronger than he?' Will the sinner go to measure arms with God? 1
Cor x 22. He is the Father Almighty, who can command legions. If
we have no strength to resist him, it is irrational to disobey him.
It is irrational, as it is against all law and equity. We have our
daily subsistence from him; in him we live and move. Is it not just
that as we live by him, we should live to him? that as he gives us
our allowance, so we should give him our allegiance?
 It is a destructive sin. 'The Lord Jesus shall be revealed
from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking
vengeance on them that obey not the gospel.' 2 Thess i 7, 8. He who
refuses to obey God's will in commanding, shall be sure to obey his
will in punishing. While the sinner thinks to slip the knot of
obedience, he twists the cord of his own damnation, and he perishes
without excuse. 'The servant which knew his lord's will, neither did
according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.' Luke xii
47. God will say, 'Why did you not obey? you knew how to do good,
but did not; therefore your blood is upon your own head.'
What means shall we use that we may obey?
(1) Serious consideration. Consider, God's commands are not
grievous he commands nothing unreasonable. 1 John v 3. It is
easier to obey the commands of God than sin. The commands of sin are
burdensome - let a man be under the power of any lust, how he tires
himself! what hazards he runs, even to endangering his health and
soul, that he may satisfy his lusts! What tedious journeys did
Antiochus Epiphanies take in persecuting the Jews! 'They weary
themselves to commit iniquity;' and are not God's commands more easy
to obey? Chrysostom says, virtue is easier than vice; temperance is
less burdensome than drunkenness. Some have gone with less pains to
heaven, than others to hell.
God commands nothing but what is beneficial. 'And now, Israel,
what does the Lord require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God,
and to keep his statutes, which I command thee this day, for thy
good?' Deut x 12, 13. To obey God, is not so much our duty as our
privilege; his commands carry meat in the mouth of them. He bids us
repent; and why? That our sins may be blotted out. Acts iii 19. He
commands us to believe and why? That we may be saved. Acts xvi 31.
There is love in every command as if a king should bid one of his
subjects dig in a gold mine, and then take the gold to himself.
(2) Earnest supplication. Implore the help of the Spirit to
carry you on in obedience. God's Spirit makes obedience easy and
delightful. If the loadstone draw the iron, it is not hard for it to
move; so if God's Spirit quicken and draw the heart, it is not hard
to obey. When a gale of the Spirit blows, we go full sail in
obedience. Turn his promise into a prayer. 'I will put my Spirit
within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.' Ezek xxxvi 27. The
promise encourages us, the Spirit enables us to obey.