Nor is this the meaning of the motivation in the second commandment. Surely God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children in the third generation. But do not forget that the clause is added, “of those that hate me.” Fact is, of course, that the genera­tions of those that hate God are the reprobate, to whom God does not reveal His saving mercy. In those gen­erations the children commit the same sins as their fa­thers. If these commit the folly of making graven images and bowing before them to worship them, if they commit the rebellion of refusing to hear the Word of God and to heed His revelation concerning Himself, their sin will continue in the line of generations, and their children will commit the same folly. If in these generations there should occur an exception, as is men­tioned in Ezekiel 18:14, an elect among the reprobate, as a brand plucked out of the fire, God will surely not visit the sins of his father upon him, but will show him the everlasting mercy of His covenant. But this is usually an exception. As a general rule the sins of the fathers continue in the line of generations. They develop organically, and increase more and more, until final destruction is the end. This is the meaning of the dreadful curse the Lord Himself pronounces upon the generation of Israel of His day: “Where­fore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and cru­cify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your syn­agogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood: of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” Not upon the righteous, but upon the generations of the wicked God visits the sins of their fathers. As Ursinus also writes in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism: “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.”

This holy jealousy of God, according to which He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children even unto the third and fourth generation, is plain­ly revealed as far as the heathen are concerned in Rom. 1:18ff. In this passage we are told, first of all that the wrath of God, which is but one aspect of His holy jealousy, is revealed from heaven against all un­godliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. God’s wrath is the reaction of His holiness, operative and manifest in punitive justice. God is light, and there is no darkness in Him. The only attitude He can possibly assume over against all darkness is that He reacts upon it in wrath and ter­rible anger. He is a consuming fire. God’s wrath, therefore, is constant and unchangeable as His very being. In man’s life wrath may reveal itself in flash­es of anger. It is spasmodic and changeable. Man’s wrath subsides frequently in proportion to the fierce­ness with which it burns. Not so with the wrath of the most high. In Him it is constant. It burns as long as unrighteousness and sin exist. This wrath of Cod, according to verse 18, is revealed from heaven. The apostle does not refer to any special revelation by which God declared to man that He was filled with wrath over His unrighteousness. But he is thinking of something that takes place in the world in this present time, through which it is plainly evident that the wrath of God burns over all ungodliness of men. And the fact to which the apostle refers is that ac­cording to the punitive judgments of God sin pro­duces sin in the generations of the ungodly. Unright­eousness gives birth to deeper folly and degradation. Darkness bears deeper corruption, and finally death. In the history of the sinful race, and in the moral and spiritual condition of the then existing world it was very plainly evident that the wrath of God has been operative from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Sinful man deliberately holds the truth in unrighteousness. Sin, unrighteous­ness, is not a matter of ignorance, no more than know­ledge is virtue. For God manifests the truth concern­ing Himself round about in the works of His hands: “Because that which may be known of God is mani­fest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; .so that they are without excuse.”