The exhortation which is added to the second commandment.

The exhortation added to this commandment, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon his children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments, contains five attributes of God which ought to constrain us to render obedience to him.

1. He calls himself our God, that is, our creator and preserver—the giver of all the good things which we have enjoyed. In this way he would teach us what base ingratitude it is not to render obedience to him, our benefactor and what an aggravated thing it is to fall from him into idolatry.

2. He calls himself a mighty God—one that is able to punish the wicked, as well as to reward the obedient. He is, therefore, to be feared and worshipped above all others.
3. A jealous God, that is, a most rigid defender, and vindicator of his honor, terribly displeased with those who depart from him, or infringe upon his honor, or worship. Inasmuch now as jealousy, or indignation on account of an injury, or baseness, proceeds from love on the part of him, who is injured, God here signifies how ardently he loves those that are his.

4. A God that visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate him. In these words God reveals the greatness of his wrath and punishment in that he threatens unto the children and the grand children, and the great grand-children's children of his enemies, to punish in them the sins of their fathers, in case they also imitate and approve of the sins of their fathers by committing them over again.

Obj. But it is said, Ez. 18, that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father. Ans. It is, however, also said in the 14th verse of the same chapter, by way of reconciliation, “That if a wicked man beget a son that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and doeth not such like; he shall surely live. ”Hence God threatens that he will punish the sins of the fathers in their children, meaning those who persevere in the sins of their fathers, whom it is just and proper should be made partakers of their punishment. Should anyone reply; That in this way, posterity do not suffer for the sins of their fathers, but only for their own, we answer nay; for there may be many impelling, moving causes of the same effect, and the cause of one punishment may be many sins, and these of different individuals besides those who bear the punishment. And if someone should object still further and say; That the sins of the fathers are not punished in their children, because the punishment which the children suffer, does not reach to the sins of their fathers, we reply, the children are a part of their fathers, so that they feel in themselves, as it were in some part of themselves, what their children suffer.

5. He declares that he is a God, who sheweth mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments. By this promise, God would magnify his mercy, that so he might the more strongly invite us to obedience by a consideration of the greatness of his mercy and by the desire of our own salvation, and that of our children. And whereas he threatened punishment only to the fourth generation, he here extends his mercy to thousands, that so he might declare that he is more inclined to shew mercy than wrath, and in this way constrain us to love him.

Obj. 1. But the children of many pious persons perish. Ans. The promise is conditional: for God declares in the 18th chapter of Ez., that he will be merciful to the children of the godly if they persevere in the obedience of their fathers, and that he will punish them if they turn away from it. If anyone should ask, Why does God not convert all the children of the godly, since they cannot follow the holy example of their fathers without his mercy, we reply, that he will not bind or restrict his mercy to any single individuals included among the posterity of the righteous; but will reserve his election free to himself, that as he converts and saves some from the posterity of the wicked, so he will leave some of the Posterity of the righteous in their natural corruption and misery which all deserve by nature, and this he does, that he may show that his own mercy is free, as well in choosing the posterity of the godly as the posterity of the wicked. Again: God does not convert all the posterity of the godly, because he has not bound himself to bestow mercy on all, or the same benefits on all the posterity of the godly. He, therefore, makes good this promise when he bestows temporal blessings upon the wicked descendants of the godly. Lastly: God does not convert all the children of the godly, because he promises this happiness to those who diligently keep his commandments, or to those who are truly godly. But inasmuch as the love of God and the obedience which is in the most holy, are imperfect in this life, the reward which is promised to them is also imperfect, and joined with the cross and chastisements, among which the wickedness and unhappiness of their posterity is not the least, as may be seen in David, Solomon and Josiah.

Obj. 2. Those who keep the commandments of God, obtain mercy. Therefore, we merit something from God by our obedience. Ans. The contrary follows. God says, I will shew mercy unto them. Therefore, it is not according to merit; for that which is done out of mercy is not of merit; and contrariwise. The argument is, therefore, false, in assigning that for a cause, which is none.

Obj. 3. This promise and threatening belongs to the whole Decalogue; why is it, therefore, annexed to this commandment? Ans. It is joined to the second commandment, not that it belongs to it alone, but that we may know that the first and second commandments are the foundation of all the others; and that God might declare that he is especially displeased with those who corrupt his worship, and that he will punish this kind of sin both in them and their posterity, and, on the other hand, that he will also bless the posterity of them, who keep his religion pure and undefiled.