QUESTION 52. What are the reasons annexed to the Second Commandment?
ANSWER: The reasons annexed to the Second Commandment, are, God's sovereignty over us, his propriety in us and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
Q. 1. Why does our Catechism make mention of REASONS ANNEXED to this and the three following commandments?
A. Because God himself has been pleased to subjoin to each of these precepts, the reasons, arguments, or motives, that should influence our obedience to them.
Q. 2. How many reasons are annexed to this Second Commandment?
A. THREE; contained in these words, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
Q. 3. Which is the first of these reasons?
A. It is God's sovereignty over us, in these words I THE LORD; or, I JEHOVAH.
Q. 4. What do you understand by God's sovereignty over us?
A. It is his absolute supreme power, or right of dominion over us, as his creatures, Rom. 9:20, 21, by which he can dispose of, ver. 22, 23, and prescribe to us as seems to him good, Deut 6:17.
Q. 5. In what lies the strength of this first reason for worshipping God by means of his own appointment?
A. It lies in this, that being our sovereign Lord, it must be his sole prerogative to prescribe to us the means of his own worship; and, consequently, that it must be our duty to make his pleasure in this, both the rule and reason of our punctual observance of what he enjoins, Psalm 95:2, 3.
Q. 6. What is the SECOND reason annexed to this commandment?
A. It is his propriety in us, in these words, T HY God.
Q. 7. What other propriety has God in us than by right of creation.
A. He has a propriety likewise by right of redemption, intimated in the preface to the commands, "I am the Lord T HY God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," Ex. 20:2.
Q. 8. Is it his propriety by right of creation, or by right of redemption, that constitutes the federal relation between him and us?
A. It is his propriety by right of redemption, Isa. 43:1 -- "I have REDEEMED thee; I have called thee by thy name: thou art MINE."
Q. 9. What influence should his propriety in us, as his people, have upon our receiving and observing the ordinances of his worship?
A. If we are his people: we are ransomed by the blood of his only begotten Son, and so under the strongest ties of duty and gratitude, to cleave to the precise manner of worship prescribed in his word, rejecting all other modes and forms whatever, Josh. 24:24.
Q. 10. What is the THIRD reason annexed to this commandment?
A. It is the zeal he hath to his own worship, in these words, -- I AM A JEALOUS GOD.
Q. 11. In what sense is God said to be a jealous God?
A. Jealousy is ascribed to him (after the manner of men,) to denote that he puts no confidence in his creatures, Deut. 5:29 that he has his eye upon them; and is highly offended when they slight him and bestow that love upon any other, which is due to him alone, chap. 32:15-26.
Q. 12. What is it for God to have zeal for his own worship?
A. It is to have Such a regard for the ordinances of his own institution, as highly to resent or revenge any addition to, or alteration of them; of which there is an awful instance in Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire before the Lord, Lev. 10:1-4.
Q. 13. In what does God manifest his zeal for his worship?
A. Both by way of threatening, and by way of promise.
Q. 14. What does God threaten as a testimony of his zeal for his worship?
A. To visit "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate" him.
Q. 15. What is it to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children?
A. It is to inflict punishment upon the children for the faults and offences of their fathers.
Q. 16. Are there any scripture examples of God's doing so?
A. As to temporal punishments there are: Seven of Saul's sons were hanged before the Lord, for his offence in slaying the Gibeonites, 2 Sam. 21:8, 9; and for the sins of Jeroboam, his whole house was utterly extinguished, 1 Kings 15:29, 30.
Q. 17. Is this thought just and equal among men?
A. Yes; as appears by the common practice of disinheriting the children of traitors and rebels for the treasonable practices of their fathers, in order to create a greater detestation of these crimes in others.
Q. 18. Whether are temporal judgments only, or spiritual and eternal plagues also, intended in this threatening?
A. Spiritual and eternal plagues are also intended, Matt. 25:41.
Q. 19. How does it appear that spiritual and eternal judgments are included in this threatening?
A. It appears from this, that the punishment threatened should bear some proportion to the mercy promised; so that if the mercy promised be of a spiritual and eternal nature, the judgments threatened must be of the same kind.
Q. 20. How does the scripture illustrate this?
A. By the issue of the final sentence at the great day, which is, that the wicked "go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal," Matt. 25:46.
Q. 21. How does it consist with the justice of God, to inflict spiritual and eternal judgments upon children for the sins of their parents?
A. It is entirely consistent with it; because the children punished with spiritual and eternal judgments, are only such as have shown themselves heirs to their fathers' sins, either by copying them, Jer. 31:29, 30, or not disapproving of and mourning for them; by which means their fathers' sins become their own, Psalm 49:13.
Q. 22. How can the visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children be reconciled with Ezek. 18:20 -- "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.
A. This passage in Ezekiel is to be understood of the son who does not tread in the steps of his wicked father; as is evident from ver. 14, 17 -- "If he beget a son that seeth all his father's sins, and doth not such like, he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live;" whereas the threatening in this commandment respects wicked children, who copy after the example of their graceless parents, as Nadab the son of Jeroboam did, who "walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to Sin" I Kings 15:26.
Q. 23. How does it appear from the threatening itself, that this is the meaning?
A. Because the children on whom God visits the iniquity of their fathers are expressly said to be "the third and fourth generation of them that HATE him."
Q. 24. Why does God threaten to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation only, of them that hate him; and not to all succeeding generations of such children?
A. Not but that the haters of God to all generations shall meet with deserved punishment; but the threatening is limited to the third and fourth generation, for a greater judgment upon wicked parents, some of whom may live to see their posterity of these generations, and to read their own sin in the punishment of their offspring whom they have seduced; as Zedekiah, for his wickedness, saw his sons, and the princes of Judah, slain before his eyes, Jer. 52:3, 10.
Q. 25. What if such wicked parents should die, before they see their third and fourth generations?
A. In that case, if their consciences are not quite seared, they will die under the dread and fear of the judgments here threatened, befalling their children, Hos. 2:4; as well as of the fiery indignation which shall devour themselves, Heb. 10:27.
Q. 26. May not God sometimes visit the iniquities of the breakers of this commandment upon their godly children?
A. He will never visit the iniquities of the fathers upon their godly children with spiritual and eternal judgments, though sometimes he may do it with temporal calamities: as no doubt many pious Israelites were carried captive to Babylon for the sins of their fathers, Lam. 5:7; which, nevertheless, was for their real good, Jer. 24:5.
Q. 27. What may we learn from this threatening to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children?
A. That as nothing can be more cruel than for parents to set a bad example before their children, Jer. 9:14, 15; so the example of forefathers will not vindicate their posterity in the way of sin, particularly in the practice of any corrupt or false worship, Ezek. 20:18, 21.
Q. 28. What is it, on the other hand, that God promises as an evidence of his zeal for his worship?
A. To show mercy to thousands of them that love him, and keep his commandments.
Q. 29. Who are they that truly love God?
A. They who, from a faith of his own operation, have complacency and delight in him as their own God and portion, Psalm 5:11.
Q. 30. What is it to keep his commandments?
A. It is to essay a uniform and self-denied obedience to the law as a rule, because Christ has fulfilled it as a covenant, Rom. 7:4.
Q. 31. What mercy does God show to them that love him, and keep his commandments?
A. He shows strengthening, Psalm 94:18, comforting, Psalm 31:7, directing, Ex. 15:13, and persevering mercy to them, 2 Sam. 7:15.
Q. 32. Does God show mercy to children because they are the offspring of godly parents?
A. No; but merely because so it pleases him, Rom, 9:15 -- "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy."
Q. 33. What benefit then have the children of godly parents beyond others?
A. They have the privilege of a religious education, Gen. 18:19; are the children of many prayers, Job 1:5; and may plead the promise, "I WILL be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee," Gen. 17:7.
Q. 34. Why does the threatening run only to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him, and yet the promise to thousands of them that love him?
A. To show that God has far greater pleasure in the exercise of mercy, than in the venting of wrath, Ezek. 33:11; and likewise for an encouragement, both to parents and children, to aim at "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," Luke 1:6.