Love Rules – A Review by Hugh Cartwright
The Banner of Truth has published Love Rules: The Ten Commandments for the 21st Century1. Originally published in 2004 by the Church and Nation Committee of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Australia, this volume was written by Australian Presbyterian ministers and professors. The Introduction explains that this book on the law of God was written for the sake of the gospel. The New Testament pattern of preaching declares God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, Christ’s glory and the call to repentance and faith.
After chapters demonstrating the need and use of the law in church and society today and discussing the relationship between the law and love, there is a chapter dealing with the preface to the Ten Commandments, a chapter on each of the Ten Commandments, a chapter on the place of the Ten Commandments in the flow of redemptive history and a chapter on the moral law and Jesus’ teaching. The book deals primarily with the Ten Commandments in relation to God’s covenant people. Each chapter concludes with a section, entitled ‘The Bottom Line’, which encapsulates its teaching in two or three sentences. The chapters are brief and simply presented. At the end there is a list of Old and New Testament references to each of the commandments, and a ‘Study Guide’ which consists of questions on each of the Commandments to help fix in the mind their teaching and the applications of that teaching.
The doctrinal position of the book is in keeping with that of the Westminster Standards. Even in a brief work like this, the Westminster Divines would probably have further developed the positive and practical implications of the writer’s perceptive comment on the Second Commandment that it condemns ‘the worship of God in ways which do not do full justice to his revealed character’.
Considering the weakness of many professing Evangelical or Reformed beliefs today regarding the Lord’s Day, it is good to see the affirmation ‘that whether we look to the first chapter of Genesis or to the Gospels and Acts, the strength of the Sabbath commandment is the divine character and example’ and that
post-resurrection believers have as much warrant and obligation for observing the Sabbath on the first day according to the Redeemer’s example as pre-resurrection believers did on the seventh day according to the Creator’s example.
While some essential principles of Sabbath observance are enunciated, ‘specific details’ are not.
The Fourth Commandment is seen as building a bridge between the first four commandments dealing with our religious duty and the last six dealing with our moral duty, the Fifth Commandment also helping to bind these two sections of the Decalogue together. In the discussion of the Sixth Commandment, the useful principle is laid down:
The Christian approach to the Ten Commandments is: to discover what each commandment enshrines as its essential moral principle; to read it in the light of the whole of Scripture, especially God’s personal revelation in Jesus Christ.
The Seventh Commandment is dealt with in a chaste manner and the point is made that
it is addressing our whole attitude to commitments and relationships, warning us against the abuse of one another’s persons, emotions, trust, and so on, for the sake of gratifying our own desires and lusts, in the spiritual as well as the physical realm.
Yet, although specifically mentioned for various reasons, these chapters are not being elevated above the others in usefulness.
This brief volume is biblical in its principles and plain and practical in its presentation. It should encourage the reader to go on to more extended works such as Thomas Watson’s The Ten Commandments, also published by the Banner of Truth Trust2, or James Durham’s The Law Unsealed, or A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments, which can be obtained with perhaps a little more perseverance in book form or online. We regret that, as is the case with so many otherwise-commendable works today, our pleasure with this book is diminished by its general use of a version of the Bible other than the Authorised, in this case the English Standard Version.
1. Love Rules: The Ten Commandments for the 21st Century
128 pages, paperback
ISBN 978 0 85151 957 9
2. Available in both paperback and clothbound formats. Also available from the Trust is Ernest C Reisinger’s Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments?.
Rev Hugh M Cartwright is pastor of the Edinburgh congregation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. This review was first printed in the November 2008 edition of the Free Presbyterian Magazine and is reproduced here with kind permission.
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