The Larger Catechism
99. Q. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
A. For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed:
- That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.
- That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.
- That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.
- That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.
- That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.
- That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.
- That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.
- That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.
Scriptural Defense and Commentary
…  Exodus 20:10. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. Leviticus 19:17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Genesis 18:19. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Joshua 14:15. And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war. Deuteronomy 6:6-7. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  2 Corinthians 1:24. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.  1 Timothy 5:22. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. Ephesians 5:11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
Rule 7: Bound to Help Others: Commanded to Ourselves
Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We too think like he did. As long as I am responsible for myself, the other person is on his own. I cannot be responsible for his actions, can I? The answer is actually, “Yes and No.” The seventh rule explains how we are bound to the other person: “That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.”
In short, in so far as it depends upon us, we must help others to avoid or obey the same as we. The focus in this rule is on “what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves.” For example, we try to help others keep the fourth commandment and see if there is something we can do to help them obey (“according to our places”). It may mean driving them to church; relieving them in other ways, etc. I have to obey the fourth commandment and I should help others to do the same. The scriptural proof and example is the fourth commandment itself: “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.” (Ex. 20:10) That does not mean we pamper the person but we should do what we can to assist them (providing we are able and have the time). This rule applies quite well to the parents with their children (Gen. 18:19). Our help may also be by example or by instruction. How we live our lives should serve as an example for them to follow.
Vos asks a most pertinent question. “Is it right to arrange for someone else to do something that we will not do ourselves because we believe it to be wrong?” The answer and example are quite challenging and helpful.
Certainly not. If a matter is wrong, we must neither do it ourselves nor arrange for anyone else to do it. Yet this principle is frequently violated in practice. A Christian businessman should not keep his store or office open for business on the Sabbath day, and he should also not employ someone else to keep it open for him. If a book or magazine is not fit to read, we ought to refrain not only from reading it ourselves, but also from giving or selling it to others for them to read. It makes no difference whether these other persons are Christians or not. God’s moral law is the same for all people, it does not provide one standard of life for Christians and another for non-Christians. God requires absolute moral perfection of everybody, Christian and non-Christian. It is very perverse to say that a Christian, who would not do certain things himself, may engage or employ someone that is not a Christian to do them for him.
Rule 8: Bound to Help Others: Commanded to Others
The eighth rule differs slightly from the seventh. In the seventh, we try to help others do the same as we, when and where we can. The eighth rule pertains to the aid we give to others to perform the duties that are required of them: “That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.” A parent will help his children to keep the Sabbath, obey their parents, etc. That is his “place” to do so. Vos adds, “the responsibility a parent for a child is far greater than that child for a parent; yet even a child has a responsibility to endeavor, according to his place, that his parents practice right and avoid wrong.” We are called to do good to all men (cf. Gal. 6:10) and where we can help others to do their work, we should.
Vos, once again, offers a very pastorally insightful explanation of this eighth rule.
There are of course many ways of being helpful to others, which change with changing circumstances. We can always be helpful by trying to understand the difficulties and temptations that others must cope with, and maintaining a sympathetic attitude toward them. We should avoid an unduly critical spirit, and even when it is our duty to reprove someone for wrongdoing, we should do it with kindness and Christian love, not in a bitter, harsh, or self-righteous spirit. If someone is facing a hard battle against sin, temptation, and discouragement, we should do what we can, in word and deed, to encourage and help such a person. We should never rejoice in iniquity, or take a secret delight in some other person’s wrongdoing. And avoidance of petty gossip about the sins and failures of others will go a long way toward healing the sore spots in the visible church.
Let us also remember that we must not apply these two rules as a means of interfering. We ought not to meddle in someone else’s affair unduly. It would be a travesty to harp on issues and finer points with others while we neglect all the weightier matters. If we are “unduly critical” in our approach, then we should be very careful. We should be a blessing to our brother or sister and not someone who annoys or meddles.
 In the parable of the Ten Virgins, the prepared wise virgins answered, “Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.” (Mt. 25:9) It would have been improper for them to have shared the oil; both would have been shut out if neither of them had enough.