I. I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of bondage. Thou shall not have strange gods before Me. Thou shall not
make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heavenabove, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the
waters under the earth. Thou shall not adore them, nor serve them. I am the Lord
thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the
children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing
mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.
II. Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
III. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
IV. Honor thy father and thy mother.
V. Thou shall not kill.
VI. Thou shall not commit adultery.
VII. Thou shall not steal.
VIII. Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
IX. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife.
X. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his field, nor his servant,
nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is
1. Exod., xx. 2-17, and Deut., v. 6-21.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Have Strange Gods Before Me."
The entire law of Christ depends upon charity. And charity depends on two
precepts, one of which concerns loving God and the other concerns loving our
Now God, in delivering the law to Moses, gave him Ten Commandments written upon
two tablets of stone. Three of these Commandments that were written on the first
tablet referred to the love of God; and the seven Commandments written on the
other tablet related to the love of our neighbor. The whole law, therefore, is
founded on these two precepts.
The First Commandment which relates to the love of God is: "Thou shall not have
strange gods." For an understanding of this Commandment, one must know how of
old it was violated. Some worshipped demons. "All the gods of the Gentiles are
devils." This is the greatest and most detestable of all sins. Even now there
are many who transgress this Commandment: all such as practised divinations and
fortune-telling. Such things, according to St. Augustine, cannot be done without
some kind of pact with the devil. "I would not that you should be made partakers
Some worshipped the heavenly bodies, believing the stars to be gods: "They have
imagined the sun and the moon to be the gods that rule the world." For this
reason Moses forbade the Jews to raise their eyes, or adore the sun and moon and
stars: "Keep therefore your souls carefully . . . lest perhaps lifting up thy
eyes to heaven, thou see the sun and the moon, and all the stars of heaven, and
being deceived by error thou adore and serve them, which the Lord thy God
created for the service of all the nations." The astrologers sin against this
Commandment in that they say that these bodies are the rulers of souls, when in
truth they were made for the use of man whose sole ruler is God.
Others worshipped the lower elements: "They imagined the fire or the wind to be
gods." Into this error also fall those who wrongly use the things of this
earth and love them too much: "Or covetous person (who is a server of
Some men have erred in worshipping their ancestors. This arose from three
(1) From Their Carnal Nature.--"For a father being afflicted with a bitter
grief, made to himself the image of his son who was quickly taken away; and him
who then had died as a man, he began now to worship as a god, and appointed him
rites and sacrifices among his servants."
(2) Because of Flattery.--Thus being unable to worship certain men in their
presence, they, bowing down, honored them in their absence by making statues of
them and worshipping one for the other: "Whom they had a mind to honor . . .
they made an image . . . that they might honor as present him that was
absent." Of such also are those men who love and honor other men more than
God: "He that loves his father and mother more than Me, is not worthy of
Me." "Put your trust not in princes; in the children of man, in whom there
is no salvation."
(3) From Presumption.--Some because of their presumption made themselves be
called gods; such, for example, was Nabuchodonosor (Judith, iii. 13). "Thy heart
is lifted up and thou hast said: I am God." Such are also those who believe
more in their own pleasures than in the precepts of God. They worship themselves
as gods, for by seeking the pleasures of the flesh, they worship their own
bodies instead of God: "Their god is their belly." We must, therefore, avoid
all these things.
WHY WE SHOULD ADORE ONE GOD
"Thou shall not have strange gods before Me." As we have already said, the
First Commandment forbids us to worship other than the one God. We shall
now consider five reasons for this.
God's Dignity.--The first reason is the dignity of God which, were it
belittled-in any way, would be an injury to God. We see something similar to
this in the customs of men. Reverence is due to every degree of dignity. Thus, a
traitor to the king is he who robs him of what he ought to maintain. Such, too,
is the conduct of some towards God: "They changed the glory of the incorruptible
God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man." This is highly
displeasing to God: "I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to
graven things." For it must be known that the dignity of God consists in His
omniscience, since the name of God, Deus, is from "seeing," and this is one of
the signs of divinity: "Show the things that are to come hereafter, and we shall
know that ye are gods." "All things are naked and open to His eyes." But
this dignity of God is denied Him by practitioners of divination, and of them it
is said: "Should not the people seek of their God, for the living and the
God's Bounty.--We receive every good from God; and this also is of the dignity
of God, that He is the maker and giver of all good things: "When Thou open Thy
hand, they shall all be filled with good." And this is implied in the name
of God, namely, Deus, which is said to be distributor, that is, "dator" of all
things, because He fills all things with His goodness. You are, indeed,
ungrateful if you do not appreciate what you have received from Him, and,
furthermore, you make for yourself another god; just as the sons of Israel made
an idol after they had been brought out of Egypt: "I will go after my
lovers." One does this also when one puts too much trust in someone other
than God, and this occurs when one seeks help from another: "Blessed is the man
whose hope is in the name of the Lord." Thus, the Apostle says: "Now that
you have known God . . . how
turn you again to the weak and needy elements? . . . You observe days and months
and times and years."
The Strength of Our Promise.--The third reason is taken from our solemn promise.
For we have renounced the devil, and we have promised fidelity to God alone.
This is a promise which we cannot break: "A man making void the law of Moses
dies without mercy under two or three witnesses. How much more think ye he
deserves punishment who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath
esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and
hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace!" "Whilst her husband lives,
she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man." Woe, then,
to the sinner who enters the land by two ways, and who "halts between two
Against Service of the Devil.--The fourth reason is because of the great burden
imposed by service to the devil: "You shall serve strange gods day and night,
who will give you no rest." The devil is not satisfied with leading to one
sin, but tries to lead on to others: "Whosoever sins shall be a slave of
sin." It is, therefore, not easy for one to escape from the habit of sin.
Thus, St. Gregory says: "The sin which is not remitted by penance soon draws man
into another sin." The very opposite of all this is true of service to God;
for His Commandments are not a heavy burden: "My yoke is sweet and My burden
light." A person is considered to have done enough if he does for God as
much as what he has done for the sake of sin: "For as you have yielded your
members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your
members to serve justice unto sanctification." But on the contrary, it is
written of those who serve the devil: "We wearied ourselves in the way of
iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways." And again:
"They have labored to commit iniquity."
Greatness of the Reward.--The fifth reason is taken from the greatness of the
reward or prize. In no law are such rewards promised as in the law of Christ.
Rivers flowing with milk and honey are promised to the Mohammedans, to the Jews
the land of promise, but to Christians the glory of the Angels: "They shall be
as the Angels of God in heaven." It was with this in mind that St. Peter
asked: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
1. "The Decalogue is the summary and epitome of the entire law of God," is the
opinion of St. Augustine (Quest. cxl super Exod., lib. ii). "Although the Lord
had spoken many things, yet He gave only two tablets of stone to Moses. . . . If
carefully examined and well understood, it will be found that on them depend
whatever else is commanded by God. Again, these ten commandments are reducible
to two, the love of God and our neighbor, on which 'depend the whole law and the
prophets' " ("Roman Catechism," "The Decalogue," Chapter I, 1).
2. Ps. xcv. 5
3. I Cor., x. 20.
4. Wis., xiii. 2.
5. Deut., iv. 15, 19.
6. Wis., xiii. 2.
7. Eph., v. 5.
8. Wis., xiv. 15.
9. "Ibid.," 17.
10. Matt., x. 37.
11. Ps. cxlv. 3.
12. Ezech., xxviii. 2.
13. Phil., iii. 19.
14. Rom., i. 23.
15. Isa., xlii. 8.
16. "Ibid.," xli. 23.
17. Heb., iv. 13.
18. Isa., viii. 19.
19. Ps. ciii. 28.
20. Osee, ii. 5.
21. Ps. xxxix. 5.
22. Gal., iv. 9, 10.
23. Heb., x. 28-29.
24. Rom., vii. 3.
25. III Kings, xviii. 21.
26. Jerem., xvi. 13.
27. John, viii.
28. "Super Ezech.," xi.
29. Matt., xi. 30.
30. Rom., vi. 19.
31. Wis., v. 7.
32. Jerem., ix. 5.
33. Matt., xxii, 30.
34. John, vi. 69. "The faithful should continually remember these words, 'I am
the Lord thy God.' They will learn from these words that their Lawgiver is none
other than their Creator, by whom they were made and are preserved. . . . 'Who
brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage' appear at
first to relate solely to the Jews liberated from the bondage of Egypt. But if
we ponder on the meaning of the salvation of the entire human race, these words
will be seen to apply still more specifically to all Christians who are
liberated by God, not from the bondage of Egypt, but from the bondage of sin and
'the powers of darkness, and are translated into the kingdom of His beloved Son'
(Col., i. 13). . . . And when it is said, 'Thou shall not have strange gods
before Me,' it is the same as to say: 'Thou shall worship Me who am the true
God, thou shall not worship strange gods.' . . . It should be accurately taught
that the veneration and invocation of the Angels, of the Saints, and of the
blessed souls who enjoy the glory of heaven--and, moreover, the honor which the
Catholic Church has always paid even to the bodies and ashes of the Saints--are
not forbidden by this Commandment" ("Roman Catechism," "First Commandment," 1,
2, 5, 8).
SECOND COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain."
This is the Second Commandment of the law. Just as there is but one God whom we
must worship, so there is only one God whom we should reverence in a special
manner. This, first of all, has reference to the name of God. "Thou shall not
take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
THE MEANING OF IN VAIN
"In vain" has a threefold meaning. Sometimes it is said of that which is false:
"They have spoken vain things every one to his neighbor." One, therefore,
takes the name of God in vain when one uses it to confirm that which is not
true: "Love not a false oath." "Thou shall not live because thou hast spoken
a lie in the name of the Lord." Any one so doing does injury to God, to
himself, and to all men.
It is an insult to God because, when you swear by God, it is nothing other than
to call Him to witness; and when you swear falsely, you either believe God to be
ignorant of the truth and thus place ignorance in God, whereas "all things are
naked and open to His eyes," or you think that God loves a lie, whereas He
hates it: "Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie." Or, again, you detract
from His power, as if He were not able to punish a lie.
Likewise, such a one does an injury to himself, for he binds himself to the
judgment of God. It is the same thing to say, "By God this is so," as to say,
"May God punish me if it is not so!"
He, finally, does an injury to other men. For there can be no lasting society
unless men believe one another. Matters that are doubtful may be confirmed by
oaths: "An oath in confirmation puts an end to all controversy." Therefore,
he who violates this precept does injury to God, is cruel to himself, and
harmful to other men.
Sometimes "vain" signifies useless: "The Lord knows the thoughts of men, that
they are vain." God's name, therefore, is taken in vain when it is used to
confirm vain things.
In the Old Law it was forbidden to swear falsely: "Thou shall not take the name
of the Lord thy God in vain." And Christ forbade the taking of oaths except
in case of necessity: "You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou
shall not forswear thyself. . . . But I say to you not to swear at all." And
the reason for this is that in no part of our body are we so weak as in the
tongue, for "the tongue no man can tame." And thus even in light matter one
can perjure himself. "Let your speech be: Yea, yea; No, no. But I say to you not
to swear at all."
Note well that an oath is like medicine, which is never taken continually but
only in times of necessity. Hence, the Lord adds: "And that which is over and
above these is evil." "Let not the mouth be accustomed to swearing, for in
it there are many falls. And let not the name of God be usual in thy mouth, and
meddle not with the names of saints. For thou shall not escape free from
Sometimes "in vain" means sin or injustice: "O ye sons of men, how long will you
be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity?" Therefore, he who swears to
commit a sin, takes the name of his God in vain. Justice consists in doing good
and avoiding evil. Therefore, if you take an oath to steal or commit some crime
of this sort, you sin against justice. And although you must not keep this oath,
you are still guilty of perjury. Herod did this against John. It is likewise
against justice when one swears not to do some good act, as not to enter a
church or a religious community. And although this oath, too, is not binding,
yet, despite this, the person himself is a perjurer.
CONDITIONS OF A LAWFUL OATH
One cannot, therefore, swear to a falsehood, or without good reason, or in any
way against justice: "And thou shall swear: As the Lord lives, in truth, and in
judgment and in justice."
Sometimes "vain" also means foolish: "All men are vain, in whom there is not the
knowledge of God." Accordingly, he who takes the name of God foolishly, by
blasphemy, takes the name of God in vain: "And he that blasphemes the name of
the Lord, dying let him die."
TAKING GOD'S NAME JUSTLY
"Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." However, the name of
God may be taken for six purposes. First, to confirm something that is said, as
in an oath. In this we show God alone is the first Truth, and also we show due
reverence to God. For this reason it was commanded in the Old Law that one must
not swear except by God. They who swore otherwise violated this order: "By
the name of strange gods you shall not swear." Although at times one swears
by creatures, nevertheless, it must be known that such is the same as swearing
by God. When you swear by your soul or your head, it is as if you bind yourself
to be punished by God. Thus: "But I call God to witness upon my soul." And
when you swear by the Gospel, you swear by God who gave the Gospel. But they sin
who swear either by God or by the Gospel for any trivial reason.
The second purpose is that of sanctification. Thus, Baptism sanctifies, for as
St. Paul says: "But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are
justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God."
Baptism, however, does not have power except through the invocation of the
Trinity: "But Thou, O Lord, art among us, and Thy name is called upon by
The third purpose is the expulsion of our adversary; hence, before Baptism we
renounce the devil: "Only let Thy name be called upon us; take away our
reproach. Wherefore, if one return to his sins, the name of God has been
taken in vain.
Fourthly, God's name is taken in order to confess it: "How then shall they call
on Him, in whom they have not believed?" And again: "Whosoever shall call
upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved." First of all, we confess by word
of mouth that we may show forth the glory of God: "And every one that calls upon
My name, I have created him for My glory." Accordingly, if one says anything
against the glory of God, he takes the name of God in vain. Secondly, we confess
God's name by our works, when our very actions show forth God's glory: "That
they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father who is in heaven."
"Through you the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles."
Fifthly it is taken for our defense: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the just run to it and shall be exalted." "In My name they shall cast out
devils." "There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must
Lastly, it is taken in order to make our works complete. Thus says the Apostle:
"All whatsoever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ." The reason is because "our help is in the name of the Lord."
Sometimes it happens that one begins a work imprudently by starting with a vow,
for instance, and then not completing either the work or the vow. And this again
is taking God's name in vain. "If thou hast vowed anything to God, defer not to
pay it." "Vow and pay to the Lord your God; all ye that are round about Him
bring presents." "For an unfaithful and foolish promise displeases Him."
1. "He who requires that honor be paid Him, also demands that we speak of Him
with reverence, and He forbids the contrary. . . . There are those who are so
blinded by darkness of error as not to fear to blaspheme His name, whom the
Angels glorify. Men are not deterred by this Commandment from shamelessly and
daringly outraging His divine majesty every day, or rather every hour and moment
of the day. Who does not know that every assertion is accompanied with an oath
and teems with curses and imprecations? To such lengths has this impiety been
carried that one scarcely buys or sells, or transacts ordinary business of any
sort, without having recourse to swearing, and who, even in matters the most
unimportant and trivial, does not profane the most holy name of God thousands of
times" ("Roman Catechism," "Second Commandment," 2). See also teaching of St.
Thomas in "Summa Theol.," II-II, Q. lxxxix, art. 3, 5, 6.
2. Ps. xi. 3.
3. Zach, viii. 17.
4. "Ibid.," xiii. 3.
5. Heb., iv. 13.
6. Ps. v. 7.
7. Heb., vi. 16.
8. Ps. xciii. 11.
9. Deut., v. 11.
10. Matt., v. 33-34.
11. James, iii. 8.
12. Matt., v. 34, 37. "It cannot be stated that these words condemn oaths
universally and under all circumstances, since the Apostles and Our Lord Himself
made frequent use of oaths (Deut., vi. 13; Ps. lxii. 12; II Cor., i. 23;
Philem., 8; Apoc., x. 6). The object of the Lord was rather to reprove the
perverse opinion of the Jews, which was to the effect that the only thing to be
avoided in an oath was a lie. . . . For oaths have been instituted on account of
human frailty. They bespeak the inconstancy of him who takes it or the
stubbornness of him who refuses to believe without it. However, an oath can be
justified by necessity. When Our Lord says, 'Let your speech be: Yea, yea; No,
no,' He evidently forbids the habit of swearing in familiar conversation and on
trivial matters" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 19).
13. Matt., v. 37.
14. Ecclus., xxiii. 9, 10.
15. Ps. iv. 3.
16. Mark, vi.
17. Jerem., iv. 2. Although to constitute an oath it is sufficient to call God
to witness, yet to make a holy and just oath many other conditions are required.
. . . The words [of Jeremias, cited above] briefly sum up all the conditions
that constitute the perfection of an oath, namely, truth, judgment, justice
("Roman Catechism., "loc. cit.," 11).
18. Wis., xiii. 1.
19. Levit., xxiv. 16.
20. Deut., vi. 13.
21. Exod., xxiii. 13.
22. Cor., i. 23.
23. I Cor., vi. 11.
24. Jerem., xiv. 9.
25. Isa., iv. 1.
26. Rom., x. 14.
27. "Ibid.," 13.
28. Isa., xliii. 7.
29. Matt., v. 16.
30. Rom., ii. 24.
31. Prov., xviii. 10.
32. Mark, xvi. 17.
33. Acts, iv. 12.
34. Col., iii. 17.
35. Ps. cxxiii. 8.
36. Eccles., v. 3.
37. Ps. lxxv. 12.
38. Eccles., v. 3.
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT: "Remember that You Keep Holy the Sabbath Day."
This is the Third Commandment of the law, and very suitably is it so. For we are
first commanded to adore God in our hearts, and the Commandment is to worship
one God: "Thou shall not have strange gods before Me." In the Second Commandment
we are told to reverence God by word: "Thou shall not take the name of the Lord
thy God in vain." The Third commands us to reverence God by act. It is:
"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day." God wished that a certain day
be set aside on which men direct their minds to the service of the Lord.
REASONS FOR THIS
There are five reasons for this Commandment. The first reason was to put aside
error, for the Holy Spirit saw that in the future some men would say that the
world had always existed. "In the last days there shall come deceitful scoffers,
walking after their own lusts, saying: Where is His promise or His coming? For
since the time that the fathers slept, all things continue as they were from the
beginning of creation. For this they are willfully ignorant of, that the heavens
were before, and the earth out of water, and through water, created by the word
of God." God, therefore, wished that one day should be set aside in memory of
the fact that He created all things in six days, and that on the seventh day He
rested from the creation of new creatures. This is why the Lord placed this
Commandment in the law, saying: "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day."
The Jews kept holy the Sabbath in memory of the first creation; but Christ at
His coming brought about a new creation. For by the first creation an earthly
man was created, and by the second a heavenly man was formed: "For in Christ
Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new
creature." This new creation is through grace, which came by the
Resurrection: "That as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father,
so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in
the likeness of His death, so shall we also be in the likeness of His
resurrection." And thus, because the Resurrection took place on Sunday, we
celebrate that day, even as the Jews observed the Sabbath on account of the
The second reason for this Commandment is to instruct us in our faith in the
Redeemer. For the flesh of Christ was not corrupted in the sepulcher, and thus
it is said: "Moreover My flesh also shall rest in hope." "Nor wilt Thou give
Thy holy one to see corruption." Wherefore, God wished that the Sabbath
should be observed, and that just as the sacrifices of the Old Law signified the
death of Christ, so should the quiet of the Sabbath signify the rest of His body
in the sepulcher. But we do not now observe these sacrifices, because with the
advent of the reality and the truth, figures of it must cease, just as the
darkness is dispelled with the rising of the sun. Nevertheless, we keep the
Saturdays in veneration of the Blessed Virgin, in whom remained a firm faith on
that Saturday while Christ was dead.
The third reason is that this Commandment was given to strengthen and foreshadow
the fulfillment of the promise of rest. For rest indeed was promised to us: "And
it shall come to pass on that day, that when God shall give thee rest from thy
labor, and from thy vexation, and from the hard bondage, wherewith thou didst
serve before." "My people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the
tabernacle of confidence, and in wealthy rest."
We hope for rest from three things: from the labors of the present life, from
the struggles of temptations, and from the servitude of the devil. Christ
promised this rest to all those who will come to Him: "Come to Me, all ye that
labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up My yoke upon you, and
learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart; and you shall find rest to
your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light."
However, the Lord, as we know, worked for six days and on the seventh He rested,
because it is necessary to do a perfect work: "Behold with your eyes how I have
labored a little, and have found much rest to Myself." For the period of
eternity exceeds the present time incomparably more than a thousand years
exceeds one day.
Fourthly, this Commandment was given for the increase of our love: "For the
corruptible body is a load upon the soul." And man always tends downwards
towards earthly things unless he takes means to raise himself above them. It is
indeed necessary to have a certain time for this; in fact, some do this
continually: "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall ever be in my
mouth." And again: "Pray without ceasing." These shall enjoy the
everlasting Sabbath. There are others who do this (i.e., excite love for God)
during a certain portion of the day: "Seven times a day I have given praise to
Thee." And some, in order to avoid being entirely apart from God, find it
necessary to have a fixed day, lest they become too lukewarm in their love of
God: "If you call the Sabbath delightful . . . then shall thou be delighted in
the Lord." Again: "Then shall thou abound in delights of the Almighty, and
shall lift up thy face to God." And accordingly this day is not set aside
for the sole exercise of games, but to praise and pray to the Lord God.
Wherefore, St. Augustine says that it is a lesser evil to plough than to play on
Lastly, we are given this Commandment in order to exercise works of kindliness
to those who are subject to us. For some are so cruel to themselves and to
others that they labor ceaselessly all on account of money. This is true
especially of the Jews, who are most avaricious. "Observe the day of the Sabbath
to sanctify it . . . that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest, even as
thyself." This Commandment, therefore, was given for all these reasons.
FROM WHAT WE SHOULD ABSTAIN ON THE SABBATH
"Remember that you keep holy (sanctify) the Sabbath day." We have already said
that, as the Jews celebrated the Sabbath, so do we Christians observe the Sunday
and all principal feasts. Let us now see in what way we should keep these days.
We ought to know that God did not say to "keep" the Sabbath, but to remember to
keep it holy. The word "holy" may be taken in two ways. Sometimes "holy"
(sanctified) is the same as pure: "But you are washed, but you are
sanctified" (that is, made holy). Then again at times "holy" is said of a
thing consecrated to the worship of God, as, for instance, a place, a season,
vestments, and the holy vessels. Therefore, in these two ways we ought to
celebrate the feasts, that is, both purely and by giving ourselves over to
We shall consider two things regarding this Commandment. First, what should be
avoided on a feast day, and secondly, what we should do. We ought to avoid three
things. The first is servile work.
Avoidance of Servile Work.--"Neither do ye any work; sanctify the Sabbath
day." And so also it is said in the Law: "You shall do no servile work
therein." Now, servile work is bodily work; whereas "free work" (i.e.,
non-servile work) is done by the mind, for instance, the exercise of the
intellect and such like. And one cannot be servilely bound to do this kind of
When Servile Work Is Lawful.--We ought to know, however, that servile work can
be done on the Sabbath for four reasons. The first reason is necessity.
Wherefore, the Lord excused the disciples plucking the ears of corn on the
Sabbath, as we read in St. Matthew (xii. 3-5). The second reason is when the
work is done for the service of the Church; as we see in the same Gospel how the
priests did all things necessary in the Temple on the Sabbath day. The third
reason is for the good of our neighbor; for on the Sabbath the Saviour cured one
having a withered hand, and He refuted the Jews who reprimanded Him, by citing
the example of the sheep in a pit ("ibid."). And the fourth reason is the
authority of our superiors. Thus, God commanded the Jews to circumcise on the
Avoidance of Sin and Negligence on the Sabbath.--Another thing to be avoided on
the Sabbath is sin: "Take heed to your souls, and carry no burdens on the
Sabbath day." This weight and burden on the soul is sin: "My iniquities as a
heavy burden are become heavy upon me." Now, sin is a servile work because
"whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin." Therefore, when it is said,
"You shall do no servile work therein," it can be understood of sin. Thus,
one violates this commandment as often as one commits sin on the Sabbath; and so
both by working and by sin God is offended. "The Sabbaths and other
festivals I will not abide." And why? "Because your assemblies are wicked. My
soul hates your new moon and your solemnities; they are become troublesome
Another thing to avoid on the Sabbath is idleness: "For idleness hath taught
much evil." St. Jerome says: "Always do some good work, and the devil will
always find you occupied." Hence, it is not good for one to keep only the
principal feasts, if on the others one would remain idle. "The King's honor
loves judgment," that is to say, discretion. Wherefore, we read that certain
of the Jews were in hiding, and their enemies fell upon them; but they,
believing that they were not able to defend themselves on the Sabbath, were
overcome and killed. The same thing happens to many who are idle on the
feast days: "The enemies have seen her, and have mocked at her Sabbaths."
But all such should do as those Jews did, of whom it is said: "Whosoever shall
come up against us to fight on the Sabbath day, we will fight against him."
WITH WHAT THE SABBATH AND FEASTS SHOULD BE OCCUPIED
"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day." We have already said that man
must keep the feast days holy; and that "holy" is considered in two ways,
namely, "pure" and "consecrated to God." Moreover, we have indicated what things
we should abstain from on these days. Now it must be shown with what we should
occupy ourselves, and they are three in number.
The Offering of Sacrifice.--The first is the offering of sacrifices. In the
Book of Numbers (xxviii) it is written how God ordered that on each day there be
offered one lamb in the morning and another in the evening, but on the Sabbath
day the number should be doubled. And this showed that on the Sabbath we should
offer sacrifice to God from all that we possess: "All things are Thine; and we
have given Thee what we received from Thy hand." We should offer, first of
all, our soul to God, being sorry for our sins: "A sacrifice to God is an
afflicted spirit;" and also pray for His blessings: "Let my prayer be
directed as incense in Thy sight." Feast days were instituted for that
spiritual joy which is the effect of prayer. Therefore, on such days our prayers
should be multiplied.
Secondly, we should offer our body, by mortifying it with fasting: "I
beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your
bodies a living sacrifice," and also by praising God: "The sacrifice of
praise shall honor Me." And thus on these days our hymns should be more
numerous. Thirdly, we should sacrifice our possessions by giving alms: "And do
not forget to do good, and to impart; for by such sacrifice God's favor is
obtained." And this alms ought to be more than on other days because the
Sabbath is a day of common joys: "Send portions to them that have not prepared
for themselves, because it is the holy day of the Lord."
Hearing of God's Word.--Our second duty on the Sabbath is to be eager to hear
the word of God. This the Jews did daily: "The voices of the prophets which are
read every Sabbath." Therefore Christians, whose justice should be more
perfect, ought to come together on the Sabbath to hear sermons and participate
in the services of the Church! "He that is God, hears the words of God." We
likewise ought to speak with profit to others: "Let no evil speech proceed from
your mouth; but that which is good unto sanctification." These two practices
are good for the soul of the sinner, because they change his heart for the
better: "Are not My words as a fire, saith the Lord, and as a hammer that breaks
the rock in pieces?" The opposite effect is had on those, even the perfect,
who neither speak nor hear profitable things: "Evil communications corrupt good
manners. Awake, ye just, and sin not." "Thy words have I hidden in my
heart." God's word enlightens the ignorant: "Thy word is a lamp to my
feet." It inflames the lukewarm: "The word of the Lord inflamed him."
THE SPIRITUAL SABBATH
The contemplation of divine things may be exercised on the Sabbath. However,
this is for the more perfect. "O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet,"
and this is because of the quiet of the soul. For just as the tired body desires
rest, so also does the soul. But the soul's proper rest is in God: "Be Thou unto
me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge." "There remains therefore a
day of rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, the
same also hath rested from his works, as God did from His." When I go into
my house, I shall repose myself with her" (i.e., Wisdom).
However, before the soul arrives at this rest, three other rests must precede.
The first is the rest from the turmoil of sin: "But the wicked are like the
raging sea which cannot rest." The second rest is from the passions of the
flesh, because "the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the
flesh." The third is rest from the occupations of the world: "Martha,
Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things."
THE HEAVENLY SABBATH
And then after all these things the soul rests peacefully in God: "If thou call
the Sabbath delightful . . . then shall thou be delighted in the Lord," The
Saints gave up everything to possess this rest, "for it is a pearl of great
price which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof Goes and sells all
that he hath, and buys that field." This rest in truth is eternal life and
heavenly joy: "This is my rest for ever and ever; here will I dwell, for I have
chosen it." And to this rest may the Lord bring us all!
1. St. Thomas also treats of this Commandment in the "Summa Theologica," I-ll Q.
cii, art. 4, 10; "ibid.," II-II, Q. cxxii, art. 4.
2. II Peter, iii. 3-5.
3. Gal., vi. 15.
4. Rom., vi. 4-5.
5. "The Apostles, therefore, resolved to consecrate the first of the seven days
of the week to the divine worship, and they called it 'the Lord's Day.' St. John
makes mention of 'the Lord's Day' in the Apocalypse (i. 10), and St. Paul
commands collections to be made 'on the first day of the week' (I Cor., xvi. 2).
. . . From all this we learn that even then the Lord's Day was kept holy in the
Church. . . . The Church of God has thought it well to transfer the celebration
and observance of the Sabbath to Sunday. On that day light first shone on the
world when the Lord arose on that day, and the gate of eternal life was thrown
open to us and we were called out of darkness into light. . . . We also learn
from the Holy Scriptures that the first day of the week was held sacred for
other reasons, viz., on that day the creation began, and on that day the Holy
Ghost descended upon the Apostles" ("Roman Catechism." Third Commandment, 7,
6. Ps. xv. 9.
7. "Ibid.," 10.
8. Isa., xiv. 3.
9. "Ibid.," xxxii. 18.
10. Matt., xi. 28-30.
11. Ecclus., li. 35.
12. Wis., ix. 15.
13. Ps. xxxiii. 2.
14. I Thess., v. 17.
15. Ps. cxviii. 164.
16. Isa., lviii. 13-14.
17. Job xxii. 26.
18. This is a reference to the great public spectacles and games.
19. Deut., v. 12-14.
20. I Cor., vi. 11.
21. Jerem., xvii. 22.
22. Levit., xxiii. 25.
23. John, vii. 22-23.
24. Jerem., xviii. 21.
25. Ps. xxxvii. 5.
26. John, viii. 34.
27. Levit., iii. 25.
28. St. Thomas' comparison of sin and servile work follows from the words:
"Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin," quoted above. This does not mean
that commission of sin on the Sabbath changes the species of the sin or gravely
increases its malice.
29. This refers to the celebration and special sacrifices offered on the first
day of the month. The Lord here is displeased not with the external ritual
itself, but with the lack of proper internal dispositions on the part of the
30. Isa., i. 13.
31. Ecclus., xxxiii. 29.
32. "Ep. ad Rusticum."
33. Ps. xcviii. 4.
34. I Mach, ii. 31-38.
35. Lam., i. 7.
36. I Mach., ii. 41.
37. For the Catholic, of course, the great Sacrifice is that of the Mass. And we
are bound to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holydays of obligation unless we are
excused for serious reason. "The pastor should not omit to teach the faithful
what words and actions they should perform on the festival days. These are: to
go to church and there with true piety and devotion assist at the celebration of
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and to approach frequently the Sacraments of the
Church which were instituted for our salvation" ("Roman Catechism," "Third
38. I Para., xxix. 14.
39. Ps. l. 19.
40. Ps. cxl. 2.
41. St. Thomas here refers not to the "fast of affliction" ("jejunum
afflictions") but to the "fast of joy" ("jejunum exultations"), which is a
joyful lifting of the mind to higher things and proceeds from the Holy Ghost who
is the spirit of liberty (car. "Summa Theol.," III, Q. cxvii, art. 5).
42 Rom., xii. 1.
43. Ps. xlix. 23.
44. Heb., xiii. 16.
45. II Esdras, viii. 10.
46. Acts, xiii. 27.
47. John, viii. 47.
48. Eph., iv. 29.
49. Jerem., xxiii. 29.
50. I Cor., xv. 33.
51. Ps. cxviii. 11.
52. "Ibid.," 105.
53. Ps. Civ. 19.
54. "The spiritual Sabbath consists in a holy and mystical rest wherein, the
carnal man (Vetus homo, Rom., vi. 4) being buried with Christ, the new man is
renewed to life and carefully applies himself to exercise the spirit of
Christian piety" ("Roman Catechism," "Third Commandment," 15).
55. Ps. xxxiii. 9.
56. Ps. xxx. 3.
57. Heb., iv. 9-10.
58. Wis., viii. 16.
59. Isa., lvii. 20.
60. Gal., v. 17.
61. Luke, x. 41.
62. "The heavenly Sabbath, as St. Cyril observes on the words of St. Paul,
'There remains therefore a day of rest for the people of God' (Eph., v. 8), is
that life in which, living with Christ, we shall experience all joy and all sin
will be wiped away ("In Joan.," lib. 4). And in this vision of God the souls of
the saints shall obtain every good" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 16).
63. Isa., lviii. 13-14.
64. Matt., xiii. 44-46.
65. Ps. cxxxi. 14.
COMMANDMENT: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou may be long-lived upon
the land which the Lord thy God will give thee."
Perfection for man consists in the love of God and of neighbor. Now, the three
Commandments which were written on the first tablet pertain to the love of God;
for the love of neighbor there were the seven Commandments on the second tablet.
But we must "love, not in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth." For
a man to love thus, he must do two things, namely, avoid evil and do good.
Certain of the Commandments prescribe good acts, while others forbid evil deeds.
And we must also know that to avoid evil is in our power; but we are incapable
of doing good to everyone. Thus, St. Augustine says that we should love all, but
we are not bound to do good to all. But among those to whom we are bound to do
good are those in some way united to us. Thus, "if any man have not care of his
own and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith." Now,
amongst all our relatives there are none closer than our father and mother. "We
ought to love God first," says St. Ambrose, "then our father and mother." Hence,
God has given us the Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother."
The Philosopher also gives another reason for this honor to parents, in that we
cannot make an equal return to our parents for the great benefits they have
granted to us; and, therefore, an offended parent has the right to send his son
away, but the son has no such right. Parents, indeed, give their children
three things. The first is that they brought them into being: "Honor thy father,
and forget not the groanings of thy mother; remember that thou had not been born
but through them." Secondly, they furnished nourishment and the support
necessary for life. For a child comes naked into the world, as Job relates (i.
24), but he is provided for by his parents. The third is instruction: "We have
had fathers of our flesh for instructors." "Hast thou children? Instruct
Parents, therefore, should give instruction without delay to their children,
because "a young man according to his way, even when he is old will not depart
from it." And again: "It is good for a man when he hath borne the yoke from
his youth." Now, the instruction which Tobias gave his son (Tob., iv) was
this: to fear the Lord and to abstain from sin. This is indeed contrary to those
parents who approve of the misdeeds of their children. Children, therefore,
receive from their parents birth, nourishment, and instruction.
WHAT CHILDREN OWE PARENTS
Now, because we owe our birth to our parents, we ought to honor them more than
any other superiors, because from such we receive only temporal things: "He that
fears the Lord honors his parents, and will serve them as his masters that
brought him into the world. Honor thy father in work and word and all patience,
that a blessing may come upon thee from him." And in doing this you shall
also honor thyself, because "the glory of a man is from honor of his father, and
a father without honor is the disgrace of his son."
Again, since we receive nourishment from our parents in our childhood, we must
support them in their old age: "Son, support the old age of thy father, and
grieve him not in his life. And if his understanding fail, have patience with
him; and despise him not when thou art in thy strength. . . . Of what an evil
fame is he that forsakes his father! And he is cursed of God that angers his
mother." For the humiliation of those who act contrary to this, Cassiodorus
relates how young storks, when the parents have lost their feathers by
approaching old age and are unable to find suitable food, make the parent storks
comfortable with their own feathers, and bring back food for their worn-out
bodies. Thus, by this affectionate exchange the young ones repay the parents for
what they received when they were young."
We must obey our parents, for they have instructed us. "Children, obey your
parents in all things." This excepts, of course, those things which are
contrary to God. St. Jerome says that the only loyalty in such cases is to be
cruel: "If any man hate not his father and mother . . . he cannot be My
disciple." This is to say that God is in the truest sense our Father: "Is
not He thy Father who hath possessed thee, and hath made thee, and created
REWARDS FOR KEEPING THIS COMMANDMENT
"Honor thy father and thy mother." Among all the Commandments, this one only has
the additional words: "that thou may be long-lived upon the land." The reason
for this is lest it be thought that there is no reward for those who honor their
parents, seeing that it is a natural obligation. Hence it must be known that
five most desirable rewards are promised those who honor their parents.
Grace and Glory.--The first reward is grace for the present life, and glory in
the life to come, which surely are greatly to be desired: "Honor thy father . .
. that a blessing may come upon thee from God, and His blessing may remain in
the latter end." The very opposite comes upon those who dishonor their
parents; indeed, they are cursed in the law by God. It is also written: "He
that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is
greater." But this our natural life is as nothing compared with the life of
grace. And so, therefore, if you do not acknowledge the blessing of the natural
life which you owe to your parents, then you are unworthy of the life of grace,
which is greater, and all the more so for the life of glory, which is the
greatest of all blessings.
A Long Life.--The second reward is a long life: "That thou may be long-lived
upon the land." For "he that honors his father shall enjoy a long life."
Now, that is a long life which is a full life, and it is not observed in time
but in activity, as the Philosopher observes. Life, however, is full inasmuch as
it is a life of virtue; so a man who is virtuous and holy enjoys a long life
even if in body he dies young: "Being perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a
long time; for his soul pleased God." Thus, for example, he is a good
merchant who does as much business in one day as another would do in a year. And
note well that it sometimes happens that a long life may lead up to a spiritual
as well as a bodily death, as was the case with Judas. Therefore, the reward for
keeping this Commandment is a long life for the body. But the very opposite,
namely, death is the fate of those who dishonor their parents. We receive our
life from them; and just as the soldiers owe fealty to the king, and lose their
rights in case of any treachery, so also they who dishonor their parents deserve
to forfeit their lives: "The eye that mocks at his father and that despises the
labor of his mother in bearing him, let the ravens pick it out, and the young
eagles eat it." Here "the ravens" signify officials of kings and princes,
who in turn are the "young eagles." But if it happens that such are not bodily
punished, they nevertheless cannot escape death of the soul. It is not well,
therefore, for a father to give too much power to his children: "Give not to son
or wife, brother or friend, power over thee while thou lives; and give not thy
estate to another, lest thou repent."
The third reward is to have in turn grateful and pleasing children. For a father
naturally treasures his children, but the contrary is not always the case: "He
that honors his father shall have joy in his own children." Again: "With
what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again." The fourth reward
is a praiseworthy reputation: "For the glory of a man is from the honor of his
father." And again: "Of what an evil fame is he that forsakes his
father?" A fifth reward is riches: "The father's blessing establishes the
houses of his children, but the mother's curse roots up the foundation."
THE DIFFERENT APPLICATIONS OF FATHER
"Honor thy father and thy mother." A man is called father not only by reason of
generation, but also for other reasons, and to each of these there is due a
certain reverence. Thus, the Apostles and the Saints are called fathers because
of their doctrine and their exemplification of faith: "For if you have ten
thousands instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by
the gospel, I have begotten you." And again: "Let us now praise men of
renown and our fathers in their generation." However, let us praise them not
in word only, but by imitating them; and we do this if nothing is found in us
contrary to what we praise in them.
Our superiors in the Church are also called fathers; and they too are to be
respected as the ministers of God: "Remember your prelates, . . . whose faith
follow, considering the end of their conversation." And again: "He that
hears you, hears Me; and he that despises you, despises Me." We honor them
by showing them obedience: "Obey your prelates, and be subject to them." And
also by paying them tithes: "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and give Him of
the first of thy fruits."
Rulers and kings are called fathers: "Father, if the prophet had bid thee do
some great thing, surely thou shouldst have done it." We call them fathers
because their whole care is the good of their people. And we honor them by being
subject to them: "Let every soul be subject to higher powers." We should be
subject to them not merely through fear, but through love; and not merely
because it is reasonable, but because of the dictates of our conscience. Because
"there is no power but from God." And so to all such we must render what we
owe them: "Tribute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to
whom fear; honor, to whom honor." And again: "My son, fear the Lord and the
Our benefactors also are called fathers: "Be merciful to the fatherless as a
father." He, too, is like a father [who gives his bond] of whom it is said:
"Forget not the kindness of thy surety." On the other hand, the thankless
shall receive a punishment such as is written: "The hope of the unthankful shall
melt away as the winter's ice." Old men also are called fathers: "Ask thy
father, and he will declare to thee; thy elders and they will tell thee."
And again: "Rise up before the hoary head, and honor the person of the aged
man." "In the company of great men take not upon thee to speak; and when the
ancients are present, speak not much." "Hear in silence, and for thy
reverence good grace shall come to thee." Now, all these fathers must be
honored, because they all resemble to some degree our Father who is in heaven;
and of all of them it is said: "He that despises you, despises Me."
1. Exod., xx. 12; Deut., v. 16.
2. I John, iii. 18.
3. I Tim., v. 8.
4. St. Thomas also treats of the Fourth Commandment in "Summa Theol.," II-
II, QQ. cxxii, ci.
5. Aristotle, "Ethics."
6. Ecclus., vii. 29-30.
7. Heb., xii. 9.
8. Ecclus., vii. 25.
9. Prov. xxii. 6.
10. Lam., iii. 27.
11. Ecclus. iii. 10.
12. "Ibid.," 13.
13. "Ibid.," 14, 15, 18.
14. Epist., lib. II.
15. Col., iii. 20.
16. "Ad Heliod."
17. Luke, xiv. 26.
18. Deut., xxxii. 6.
19. Ecclus., iii. 9-10.
20. Deut., xxvii. 16.
21. Luke, xvi. 10.
22. Ecclus., iii. 7.
23. Wis., iv. 13.
24. Prov., xxx. 17.
25. Ecclus., xxxiii. 20.
26. "Ibid.," iii. 6.
27. Matt., vii. 2.
28. Ecclus., iii. 13.
29. "Ibid.," 18.
30. "Ibid.," 11.
31. I Cor., iv. 15.
32. Ecclus., xliv. 1.
33. Heb., xiii. 7.
34. Luke, x. 16.
35. Heb., xiii. 17.
36. Prov., iii. 9.
37. IV Kings, v. 13.
38. Rom., xiii. 1.
39. "Ibid.," 7
41. Prov., xxiv. 21.
42. Ecclus., iv. 10.
43. "Ibid.," xxix. 19.
44. Wis., xvi. 29.
45. Deut., xxxii. 7.
46. Lev., xix. 32.
47. Ecclus., xxxii. 13.
48. "Ibid.," 9.
49. Luke, x. 16.
COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Kill."
THE SIN OF KILLING
In the divine law which tells us we must love God and our neighbor, it is
commanded that we not only do good but also avoid evil. The greatest evil that
can be done to one's neighbor is to take his life. This is prohibited in the
Commandment: "Thou shall not kill."
Killing of Animals Is Lawful.--In connection with this Commandment there are
three errors. Some have said that it is not permitted to kill even brute
animals. But this is false, because it is not a sin to use that which is
subordinate to the power of man. It is in the natural order that plants be the
nourishment of animals, certain animals nourish others, and all for the
nourishment of man: "Even the green herbs have I delivered them all to you."
The Philosopher says that hunting is like a just war. And St. Paul says:
"Whatsoever is sold in the shambles eat; asking no questions for conscience'
sake." Therefore, the sense of the Commandment is: "Thou shall not kill men."
The Execution of Criminals.--Some have held that the killing of man is
prohibited altogether. They believe that judges in the civil courts are
murderers, who condemn men to death according to the laws. Against this St.
Augustine says that God by this Commandment does not take away from Himself the
right to kill. Thus, we read: "I will kill and I will make to live." It is,
therefore, lawful for a judge to kill according to a mandate from God, since in
this God operates, and every law is a command of God: "By Me kings reign, and
lawgivers decree just things." And again: "For if thou dost that which is
evil, fear; for he bears not the sword in vain. Because he is God's
minister." To Moses also it was said: "Wizards thou shall not suffer to
live." And thus that which is lawful to God is lawful for His ministers when
they act by His mandate. It is evident that God who
is the Author of laws, has every right to inflict death on account of sin. For
"the wages of sin is death." Neither does His minister sin in inflicting that
punishment. The sense, therefore, of "Thou shall not kill" is that one shall not
kill by one's own authority.
Suicide is Prohibited.--There are those who held that although this Commandment
forbids one to kill another, yet it is lawful to kill oneself. Thus, there are
the examples of Samson (Judges, xvi) and Cato and certain virgins who threw
themselves into the flames, as St. Augustine relates in "The City of God."
But he also explains this in the words: "He who kills himself, certainly kills a
man." If it is not lawful to kill except by the authority of God, then it is
not lawful to kill oneself except either upon the authority of God or instructed
by the Holy Ghost, as was the case of Samson. Therefore, "thou shall not
Other Meanings of "To Kill."--It ought to be known that to kill a man may happen
in several ways. Firstly, by one's own hand: "Your hands are full of blood."
This is not only against charity, which tells us to love our neighbor as our
self: "No murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself." But also it is
against nature, for "every beast loves its like." And so it is said: "He
that strikes a man with a will to kill him, shall be put to death." He who
does this is more cruel than the wolf, of which Aristotle says that one wolf
will not eat of the flesh of another wolf.
Secondly, one kills another by word of mouth. This is done by giving counsel to
anyone against another by provocation, accusation, or detraction: "The sons of
men whose teeth are weapons and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword."
Thirdly, by lending aid, as it is written: "My son, walk not thou with them . .
. for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood." Fourthly,
by consent: "They are worthy of death, not only they that do them, but they also
that consent to them that do them." Lastly, one kills another by giving a
partial consent when the act could be completely prevented: "Deliver them that
are led to death;" or, if one can prevent it, yet does not do so through
negligence or avarice. Thus, St. Ambrose says: "Give food to him that is dying
of hunger; if you do not, you are his murderer."
We have already considered the killing of the body, but some kill the soul also
by drawing it away from the life of grace, namely, by inducing it to commit
mortal sin: "He was a murderer from the beginning," that is, in so far as he
drew men into sin. Others, however, slay both body and soul. This is possible in
two ways: first, by the murder of one with child, whereby the child is killed
both in body and soul; and, secondly, by committing suicide.
THE SIN OF ANGER
Why We Are Forbidden to Be Angry.--In the Gospel of St. Matthew (chapter V)
Christ taught that our justice should be greater than the justice of the Old
Law. This means that Christians should observe the Commandments of the law more
perfectly than the Jews observed them. The reason is that greater effort
deserves a better reward: "He who sows sparingly, shall also reap
sparingly." The Old Law promised a temporary and earthly reward: "If you be
willing and will hearken to Me, you shall eat the good things of the land."
But in the New Law heavenly and eternal things are promised. Therefore, justice,
which is the observance of the Commandments, should be more generous because a
greater reward is expected.
The Lord mentioned this Commandment in particular among the others when He
said: "You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shall not kill. . .
. But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother, shall be in danger
of the judgment." By this is meant the penalty which the law prescribes: "If
any man kill his neighbor on set purpose, and by lying in wait for him; thou
shall take him away from My altar, that he may die."
Ways of Avoiding Anger.--Now, there are five ways to avoid being angry. The
first is that one be not quickly provoked to anger: "Let every man be swift to
hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger." The reason is that anger is a
sin, and is punished by God. But is all anger contrary to virtue? There are two
opinions about this. The Stoics said that the wise man is free from all
passions; even more, they maintained that true virtue consisted in perfect quiet
of soul. The Peripatetics, on the other hand, held that the wise man is subject
to anger, but in a moderate degree. This is the more accurate opinion. It is
proved firstly by authority, in that the Gospel shows us that these passions
were attributed to Christ, in whom was the full fountainhead of wisdom. Then,
secondly, it is proved from reason. If all the passions were opposed to virtue,
then there would be some powers of the soul which would be without good purpose;
indeed, they would be positively harmful to man, since they would have no acts
in keeping with them. Thus, the irascible and concupiscible powers would be
given to man to no purpose. It must, therefore, be concluded that sometimes
anger is virtuous, and sometimes it is not.
Three Considerations of Anger.--We see this if we consider anger in three
different ways. First, as it exists solely in the judgment of reason, without
any perturbation of soul; and this is more properly not anger but judgment.
Thus, the Lord punishing the wicked is said to be angry: "I will bear the wrath
of the Lord because I have sinned against Him."
Secondly, anger is considered as a passion. This is in the sensitive appetite,
and is twofold. Sometimes it is ordered by reason or it is restrained within
proper limits by reason, as when one is angry because it is justly fitting to be
angry and within proper limits. This is an act of virtue and is called righteous
anger. Thus, the Philosopher says that meekness is in no way opposed to anger.
This kind of anger then is not a sin.
There is a third kind of anger which overthrows the judgment of reason and is
always sinful, sometimes mortally and sometimes venially. And whether it is one
or the other will depend on that object to which the anger incites, which is
sometimes mortal, sometimes venial. This may be mortal in two ways: either in
its genus or by reason of the circumstances. For example, murder would seem to
be a mortal sin in its genus, because it is directly opposite to a divine
Commandment. Thus, consent to murder is a mortal sin in its genus, because if
the act is a mortal sin, then the consent to the act will be also a mortal sin.
Sometimes, however, the act itself is mortal in its genus, but, nevertheless,
the impulse is not mortal, because it is without consent. This is the same as if
one is moved by the impulse of concupiscence to fornication, and yet does not
consent; one does not commit a sin. The same holds true of anger. For anger is
really the impulse to avenge an injury which one has suffered. Now, if this
impulse of the passion is so great that reason is weakened, then it is a mortal
sin; if, however, reason is not so perverted by the passion as to give its full
consent, then it will be a venial sin. On the other hand, if up to the moment of
consent, the reason is not perverted by the passion, and consent is given
without this perversion of reason, then there is no mortal sin. "Whosoever is
angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment," must be understood
of that impulse of passion tending to do injury to the extent that reason is
perverted--and this impulse, inasmuch as it is consented to, is a mortal sin.
Why We Should Not Get Angry Easily.--The second reason why we should not be
easily provoked to anger is because every man loves liberty and hates restraint.
But he who is filled with anger is not master of himself: "Who can bear the
violence of one provoked?" And again: "A stone is heavy, and sand weighty,
but the anger of a fool is heavier than both."
One should also take care that one does not remain angry over long: "Be ye
angry, and sin not." And: "Let not the sun go down upon your anger." The
reason for this is given in the Gospel by Our Lord: "Be at agreement with thy
adversary betimes whilst thou art in the way with him; lest perhaps the
adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer,
and thou be cast into prison. Amen, I say to thee, thou shall not go out from
hence till thou repay the last farthing."
We should beware lest our anger grow in intensity, having its beginning in the
heart, and finally leading on to hatred. For there is this difference between
anger and hatred, that anger is sudden, but hatred is long-lived and, thus, is a
mortal sin: "Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer." And the reason is
because he kills both himself (by destroying charity) and another. Thus, St.
Augustine in his "Rule" says: "Let there be no quarrels among you; or if they do
arise, then let them end quickly, lest anger should grow into hatred, the mote
becomes a beam, and the soul becomes a murderer." Again: "A passionate man
stirs up strife." "Cursed be their fury, because it was stubborn, and their
wrath, because it was cruel."
We must take
care lest our wrath explode in angry words: "A fool immediately shows his
anger." Now, angry words are twofold in effect; either they injure another,
or they express one's own pride in oneself. Our Lord has reference to the first
when He said: "And whosoever shall say to his brother: 'Thou fool,' shall be in
danger of hell fire." And He has reference to the latter in the words: "And
he that shall say: 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council." Moreover: "A
mild answer breaks wrath, but a harsh word stirs up fury."
Finally, we must beware lest anger provoke us to deeds. In all our dealings we
should observe two things, namely, justice and mercy; but anger hinders us in
both: "For the anger of a man works not the justice of God." For such a one
may indeed be willing but his anger prevents him. A certain philosopher once
said to a man who had offended him: "I would punish you, were I not angry."
"Anger hath no mercy, nor fury when it breaks forth." And: "In their fury
they slew a man."
It is for all this that Christ taught us not only to beware of murder but also
of anger. The good physician removes the external symptoms of a malady; and,
furthermore, he even removes the very root of the illness, so that there will be
no relapse. So also the Lord wishes us to avoid the beginnings of sins; and
anger is thus to be avoided because it is the beginning of murder.
1. St. Thomas also treats of this Commandment in "Summa Theol.," II-II, Q. lxix.
art. 2, 3; Q. cxii, art. 6. "The Lord points out (Matt., v. 21) the twofold
force of this Commandment. The one is prohihitory and forbids us to kill; the
other is mandatory and commands us to cultivate charity, peace, and friendship
towards our enemies, to have peace with all men, and finally to suffer all
things with patience" ("Roman Catechism," "Fifth Commandment," 2).
2. Gen., ix. 3
3. Aristotle, "Politics," I.
4. I Cor., x. 25.
5. Deut., xxxii. 39.
6. Prov., viii. 15.
7. Rom., xiii. 4.
8. Exod., xxii. 18.
9. Rom. vi. 23.
10. Killing in a just war and killing by accident are among the other exceptions
to this Commandment. The soldier is guiltless who in a just war takes the life
of an enemy, provided that he is not actuated by motives of ambition or cruelty,
but by a pure desire to serve the interests of his country. . . . Again, death
caused, not by intent or design, but by accident, is not murder" ("Roman
Catechism," "loc. cit.," 5-6).
11. Book I, xxvii.
13.--"It is not lawful to take one-s own life. No man possesses such power over
his own life as to be free to put himself to death. We find that the Commandment
does not say, 'Thou shall not kill another,' but simply, 'Thou shall not kill' "
("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 10).
14. Isa., i. 15.
15. John, iii. 15.
16. Ecclus., xiii. 19.
17. Exod., xxi. 12.
18. "De Animal.," IV.
19. Ps. lvi. 5.
20. Prov., i. 15-16.
21. Rom., i. 32.
22. Prov., xxiv. 11.
23. John, viii. 44.
24. II Cor., ix. 6.
25. Isa., i. 19.
26. Matt., v. 21-22.
27. Exod., xxi. 14. "The Gospel has taught us that it is unlawful even to be
angry with anyone. . . . From these words [of Christ, cited above] it clearly
follows that he who is angry with his brother is not free from sin, even though
he does not display his wrath. So also he who gives indication of his anger sins
grievously; and he who treats another with great harshness and hurls insults at
him, sins even more grievously. This, however, is to be understood of cases in
which no just cause of anger exists. God and His laws permit us to be angry when
we correct the faults of those who are subject to us. But even in these cases
the anger of a Christian should spring from stern duty and not from the impulse
of passion, for we are temples of the Holy Ghost in which Jesus Christ may
dwell" ("Roman Catechism," "loc cit.," 12).
28. James, i. 19.
29. Mic., vii. 9.
30. Prov., xxvii. 4.
31. "Ibid.," 3.
32. Ps. iv. 5.
33. Eph., iv. 26.
34. Matt., v. 25, 26.
35. I John, iii. 15.
36. "Epist.," cxi.
37. Prov., xv. 18.
38. Gen., xlix. 7.
39. Prov., xii. 16.
40. Matt., v. 22.
42. Prov., xv. 1.
43. James, i. 20.
44. Prov., xxvii. 4.
45. Gen., xlix. 6.
COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery."
After the prohibition of murder, adultery is forbidden. This is fitting, since
husband and wife are as one body. "They shall be," says the Lord, "two in one
flesh." Therefore, after an injury inflicted upon a man in his own person,
none is so grave as that which is inflicted upon a person with whom one is
Adultery is forbidden both to the wife and the husband. We shall first consider
the adultery of the wife, since in this seems to lie the greater sin, for a wife
who commits adultery is guilty of three grave sins, which are implied in the
following words: "So every woman that leaves her husband, . . . first, she hath
been unfaithful to the law of the Most High; and secondly, she hath offended
against her husband; thirdly, she hath fornicated in adultery, and hath gotten
her children of another man."
First, therefore, she has sinned by lack of faith, since she is unfaithful to
the law wherein God has forbidden adultery. Moreover, she has spurned the
ordinance of God: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put
asunder." And also she has sinned against the institution or Sacrament.
Because marriage is contracted before the eyes of the Church, and thereupon God
is called, as it were, to witness a bond of fidelity which must be kept: "The
Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth whom thou hast
despised." Therefore, she has sinned against the law of God, against a
precept of the Church and against a Sacrament of God.
Secondly, she sins by infidelity because she has betrayed her husband: "The wife
hath not power of her own body: but the husband." In fact, without the
consent of the husband she cannot observe chastity. If adultery is committed,
then, an act of treachery is perpetrated in that the wife gives herself to
another, just as if a servant gave himself to another master: "She forsakes the
guide of her youth, and hath forgotten the covenant of her God."
Thirdly, the adulteress commits the sin of theft in that she brings forth
children from a man not her husband; and this is a most grave theft in that she
expends her heredity upon children not her husband's. Let it be noted that such
a one should encourage her children to enter religion, or upon such a walk of
life that they do not succeed in the property of her husband. Therefore, an
adulteress is guilty of sacrilege, treachery and theft.
Husbands, however, do not sin any less than wives, although they sometimes may
salve themselves to the contrary. This is clear for three reasons. First,
because of the equality which holds between husband and wife, for "the husband
also hath not power of his own body, but the wife." Therefore, as far as the
rights of matrimony are concerned, one cannot act without the consent of the
other. As an indication of this, God did not form woman from the foot or from
the head, but from the rib of the man. Now, marriage was at no time a perfect
state until the law of Christ came, because the Jew could have many wives, but a
wife could not have many husbands; hence, equality did not exist.
The second reason is because strength is a special quality of the man, while the
passion proper to the woman is concupiscence: "Ye husbands, likewise dwelling
with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the female as to the weaker
vessel." Therefore, if you ask from your wife what you do not keep yourself,
then you are unfaithful. The third reason is from the authority of the husband.
For the husband is head of the wife, and as it is said: "Women may not speak in
the church, . . . if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at
home." The husband is the teacher of his wife, and God, therefore, gave the
Commandment to the husband. Now, as regards fulfillment of their duties, a
priest who fails is more guilty than a layman, and a bishop more than a priest,
because it is especially incumbent upon them to teach others. In like manner,
the husband that commits adultery breaks faith by not obeying that which he
WHY ADULTERY AND FORNICATION MUST BE AVOIDED
Thus, God forbids adultery both to men and women. Now, it must be known that,
although some believe that adultery is a sin, yet they do not believe that
simple fornication is a mortal sin. Against them stand the words of St. Paul:
"For fornicators and adulterers God will judge." And: "Do not err: neither
fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liars with mankind
shall possess the kingdom of God." But one is not excluded from the kingdom
of God except by mortal sin; therefore, fornication is a mortal sin.
But one might say that there is no reason why fornication should be a mortal
sin, since the body of the wife is not given, as in adultery. I say, however, if
the body of the wife is not given, nevertheless, there is given the body of
Christ which was given to the husband when he was sanctified in Baptism. If,
then, one must not betray his wife, with much more reason must he not be
unfaithful to Christ: "Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ?
Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot?
God forbid!" It is heretical to say that fornication is not a mortal sin.
Moreover, it must be known that the Commandment, "Thou shall not commit
adultery," not only forbids adultery but also every form of immodesty and
impurity. There are some who say that intercourse between married persons is
not devoid of sin. But this is heretical, for the Apostle says: "Let marriage be
honorable in all and the bed undefiled." Not only is it devoid of sin, but
for those in the state of grace it is meritorious for eternal life. Sometimes,
however, it may be a venial sin, sometimes a mortal sin. When it is had with the
intention of bringing forth offspring, it is an act of virtue. When it is had
with the intent of rendering mutual comfort, it is an act of justice. When it is
a cause of exciting lust,
although within the limits of marriage, it is a venial sin; and when it goes
beyond these limits, so as to intend intercourse with another if possible, it
would be a mortal sin.
Adultery and fornication are forbidden for a number of reasons. First of all,
because they destroy the soul: "He that is an adulterer, for the folly of his
heart shall destroy his own soul." It says: "for the folly of his heart,"
which is whenever the flesh dominates the spirit. Secondly, they deprive one of
life; for one guilty of such should die according to the Law, as we read in
Leviticus (xx. 10) and Deuteronomy (xxii. 22). Sometimes the guilty one is not
punished now bodily, which is to his disadvantage since punishment of the body
may be borne with patience and is conducive to the remission of sins; but
nevertheless he shall be punished in the future life. Thirdly, these sins
consume his substance, just as happened to the prodigal son in that "he wasted
his substance living riotously." "Give not thy soul to harlots in any point;
lest thou destroy thyself and thy inheritance." Fourthly, they defile the
offspring: "The children of adulterers shall not come to perfection, and the
seed of the unlawful bed shall be rooted out. And if they live long they shall
be nothing regarded, and their last old age shall be without honor." And
again: "Otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy."
Thus, they are never honored in the Church, but if they be clerics their
dishonor may go without shame. Fifthly, these sins take away one's honor, and
this especially is applicable to women: "Every woman that is a harlot shall be
trodden upon as dung in the way." And of the husband it is said: "He gathers
to himself shame and dishonor, and his reproach shall not be
St. Gregory says that sins of the flesh are more shameful and less blameful than
those of the spirit, and the reason is because they are common to the beasts:
"Man when he was in honor did not understand; and he hath been compared to
senseless beasts, and made like to them."
1. Gen., ii. 24.
2. "The bond between husband and wife is one of the strictest union, and nothing
can be more gratifying to both than to realize that they are objects of mutual
and undivided affection. On the other hand, nothing inflicts greater anguish
than to feel that the legitimate love which they owe to each other has been
transferred elsewhere. This Commandment which prohibits adultery follows
properly and in order that which protects human life against the hand of the
murderer" ("Roman Catechism," "Sixth Commandment," 1). St. Thomas treats of this
Commandment also in the "Summa Theol.," II-II, Q. cxxii, art. 6; Q. cliv.
3. Ecclus., xxiii. 32, 33.
4. Matt., xix. 6.
5. Mal., ii. 14.
6. Cor., vii. 4.
7. Prov., ii. 17-18.
8. I Cor., vii. 4.
9. I Peter, iii. 7.
10. I Cor., xiv. 34-35.
11. Heb., xiii. 4.
12. I Cor., vi. 9.
13. I Cor., vi. 15.
14. "By the prohibition of adultery, every kind of impurity and immodesty by
which the body is defiled is also forbidden. Nay more, even every inward thought
against chastity is forbidden by this Commandment. . . . You have heard that it
was said to them of old: Thou shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, that
whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed
adultery with her in his heart." ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 5).
15. Heb., xiii. 4.
16. Prov., vi. 32.
17. Luke, xv. 13.
18. Ecclus., ix. 6.
19. Wis., iii. 16-17.
20. I Cor., vii. 14.
21. Ecclus., ix. 10.
22. Prov., vi. 33.
23. Ps.xlviii. 21. "If the occasions of sin which we have just enumerated [viz.,
idleness, intemperance in eating and drinking, indulgence of the eyes, immodest
dress, immodest conversation and reading] be carefully avoided, almost every
excitement to lust will be removed. But the most efficacious means to subdue its
violence are frequent use of confession and reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Unceasing and devout prayer to God, accompanied by fasting and giving of alms,
has the same salutary effect. Chastity is a gilt of God. To those who ask it
aright, He does not deny it; nor does He allow us to be tempted beyond our
strength" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 12).
COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Steal."
The Lord specifically forbids injury to our neighbor in the Commandments. Thus,
"Thou shall not kill" forbids us to injure our neighbor in his own person; "Thou
shall not commit adultery" forbids injury to the person to whom one is bound in
marriage; and now the Commandment, "Thou shall not steal," forbids us to injure
our neighbor in his goods. This Commandment forbids any worldly goods whatsoever
to be taken away wrongfully.
Theft is committed in a number of ways. First, by taking stealthily: "If the
goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief
would come." This is an act wholly blameworthy because it is a form of
treachery. "Confusion . . . is upon the thief."
Secondly, by taking with violence, and this is an even greater injury: "They
have violently robbed the fatherless." Among such that do such things are
wicked kings and rulers: "Her princes are in the midst of her as roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves, they left nothing for the morning." They act
contrary to God's will who wishes a rule according to justice: "By Me kings
reign and lawgivers decree just things." Sometimes they do such things
stealthily and sometimes with violence: "Thy princes are faithless companions of
thieves, they all love bribes, they run after rewards." At times they steal
by enacting laws and enforcing them for profit only: "Woe to them that make
wicked laws." And St. Augustine says that every wrongful usurpation is theft
when he asks: "What are thrones but forms of thievery?"
Thirdly, theft is committed by not paying wages that are due: "The wages of him
that hath been hired by thee shall not abide by thee until the morning."
This means that a man must pay every one his due, whether he be prince, prelate,
or cleric, etc.: "Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom
tribute is due, custom, to whom custom." Hence, we are bound to give a
return to rulers who guard our safety.
The fourth kind of theft is fraud in buying and selling: "Thou shall not have
divers weights in thy bag, a greater and a less." And again: "Do not any
unjust thing in judgment, in rule, in weight, or in measure." All this is
directed against the keepers of wine-shops who mix water with the wine. Usury is
also forbidden: "Who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest in Thy
holy hill? . . . He that hath not put his money out to usury." This is also
against money-changers who commit many frauds, and against the sellers of cloth
and other goods.
Fifthly, theft is committed by those who buy promotions to positions of temporal
or spiritual honor. "The riches which he hath swallowed, he shall vomit up, and
God shall draw them out of his belly," has reference to temporal position.
Thus, all tyrants who hold a kingdom or province or land by force are thieves,
and are held to restitution. Concerning spiritual dignities: "Amen, amen, I say
to you, he that enters not by the door into the sheepfold but climbs up another
way is a thief and a robber." Therefore, they who commit simony are thieves.
WHY STEALING MUST BE AVOIDED
"Thou shall not steal." This Commandment, as has been said, forbids taking
things wrongfully, and we can bring forth many reasons why it is given. The
first is because of the gravity of this sin, which is likened to murder: "The
bread of the needy is the life of the poor; he that defrauds them thereof is a
man of blood." And again: "He that sheds blood and he that defrauds the
laborer of his hire are brothers."
The second reason is the peculiar danger involved in theft, for no sin is so
dangerous. After committing other sins a person may quickly repent, for
instance, of murder when his anger cools, or of fornication when his passion
subsides, and so on for others; but even if one repents of this sin, one does
not easily make the necessary satisfaction for it. This is owing to the
obligation of restitution and the duty to make up for what loss is incurred by
the rightful owner. And all this is above and beyond the obligation to repent
for the sin itself: "Woe to him that heaps together that which is not his own,
how long doth he load himself with thick clay!" For thick clay is that from
which one cannot easily extricate himself.
The third reason is the uselessness of stolen goods in that they are of no
spiritual value: "Treasures of wickedness shall profit nothing." Wealth can
indeed be useful for almsgiving and offering of sacrifices, for "the ransom of a
man's life are his riches." But it is said of stolen goods: "I am the Lord
that love judgment, and hate robbery in a holocaust.". And again: "He that
offers sacrifice of the goods of the poor is as one that sacrifices the son in
the presence of his father."
The fourth reason is that the results of theft are peculiarly harmful to the
thief in that they lead to his loss of other goods. It is not unlike the mixture
of fire and straw: "Fire shall devour their tabernacles, who love to take
bribes." And it ought to be known that a thief may lose not only his own
soul, but also the souls of his children, since they are bound to make
1. St. Thomas also treats of this Commandment in the "Summa Theol.," II-II,
Q. cxxii, Art. 6.
2. Matt., xxiv. 43.
3. Ecclus., v. 17.
4. Job, xxiv. 9.
5. Soph., iii. 3.
6. Prov., viii. 15.
7. Isa., i. 23.
8. "Ibid.," x. 1.
9. "The City of God," IV, 4. "It must be seen that the word 'steal' is
understood not only of the taking away of anything from its rightful owner
privately and without his consent, but also the
possession of that which belongs to another, contrary to his will, although not
without his knowledge. Otherwise we would say that he who forbids theft does not
also forbid robbery, which is accomplished by
violence and injustice. . . . So robbery is a greater sin than theft, inasmuch
as it not only deprives another of his property, but also offers violence and
insult to him. Nor can it be a matter of surprise that the Commandment is
expressed in the lighter word, 'steal,' instead of 'rob.' A good reason for this
is that theft is more general and of wider extent than robbery" ("Roman
Catechism," "Seventh Commandment," 3-4).
10. Lev., xix. 13.
11. Rom., xiii. 7.
12. Deut., xxv. 13.
13. Lev., xix. 35-36.
14. Ps. xiv. 1, 5.
15. Job, xx. 15.
16. John, x. 1.
18. Ecclus., xxxiv. 25.
19. "Ibid.," 27.
20. Hab., ii. 6.
21. "The possession of other men's property is called 'thick clay' by the
prophet because it is difficult to emerge and disengage oneself from [ill-gotten
goods]. . . . What shall we say of the obligation imposed by God on all of
satisfying for the injury done? 'Without restitution,' says St. Augustine, 'the
sin is not forgiven' " ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 8).
22. Prov., x. 2.
23. "Ibid.," xiii. 8.
24. Isa., lxi. 8.
25. Ecclus., xxxiv. 24.
26. Job, xv. 34.
COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor."
The Lord has forbidden anyone to injure his neighbor by deed; now he forbids us
to injure him by word. "Thou shall not bear false witness against thy
neighbor." This may occur in two ways, either in a court of justice or in
In the court of justice it may happen in three ways, according to the three
persons who may violate this Commandment in court. The first person is the
plaintiff who makes a false accusation: "Thou shall not be a detractor nor a
whisperer among the people." And note well that it is not only wrong to speak
falsely, but also to conceal the truth: "If thy brother shall offend against
thee, go and rebuke him."The second person is the witness who testifies by
lying: "A false witness shall not be unpunished." For this Commandment
includes all the preceding ones, inasmuch as the false witness may himself be
the murderer or the
thief, etc. And such should be punished according to the law. "When after most
diligent inquisition, they shall find that the false witness hath told a lie
against his brother, they shall render to him as he meant to do to his brother.
. . . Thou shall not pity him, but shall require life for life, eye for eye,
tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." And again: "A man that bears
false witness against his neighbor is like a dart and a sword and a sharp
arrow." The third person is the judge who sins by giving an unjust sentence:
"Thou shall not . . . judge unjustly. Respect not the person of the poor, nor
honor the countenance of the mighty. But judge thy neighbor according to
WAYS OF VIOLATING THIS COMMANDMENT
In ordinary conversation one may violate this Commandment in five ways. The
first is by detraction: "Detractors, hateful to God." "Hateful to God" here
indicates that nothing is so dear to a man as his good name: "A good name is
better than great riches." But detractors take away this good name: "If a
serpent bite in silence, he is no better that backbites secretly."
Therefore, if detractors do not restore this reputation, they cannot be saved.
Secondly, one may break this precept by listening to detractors willingly:
"Hedge in thy ears with thorns, hear not a wicked tongue, and make doors and
bars to thy mouth." One should not listen deliberately to such things, but
ought to turn away, showing a sad and stern countenance: "The north wind drives
away rain as doth a sad countenance a backbiting tongue."
Thirdly, gossipers break this precept when they repeat whatever they hear: "Six
things there are which the Lord hates, and the seventh His soul detests . . .
him that sows discord among brethren." Fourthly, those who speak honeyed
words, the flatterers: "The sinner is praised in the desires of his soul, and
the unjust man is blessed." And again: "O My people, they that call thee
blessed, the same shall deceive thee."
SPECIAL EFFECTS OF TELLING LIES
The prohibition of this Commandment includes every form of falsehood: "Be not
willing to make any manner of lie; for the custom thereof is no good." There
are four reasons for this. The first is that lying likens one to the devil,
because a liar is as the son of the devil. Now, we know that a man's speech
betrays from what region and country he comes from, thus: "Even thy speech doth
discover thee." Even so, some men are of the devil's kind, and are called
sons of the devil because they are liars, since the devil is "a liar and the
father of lies." Thus, when the devil said, "No, you shall not die the
death," he lied. But, on the contrary, others are the children of God, who
is Truth, and they are those who speak the truth.
The second reason is that lying induces the ruin of society. Men live together
in society, and this is soon rendered impossible if they do not speak the truth
to one another. "Wherefore putting away lying, speak ye the truth, every man
with his neighbor; for we are members one of another."
The third reason is that the liar loses his reputation for the truth. He who is
accustomed to telling lies is not believed even when he speaks the truth: "What
can be made clean by the unclean? And what truth can come from that which is
The fourth reason is because a liar kills his soul, for "the mouth that lies
kills the soul." And again: "Thou wilt destroy all
that speak a lie." Accordingly, it is clear that lying is a mortal sin;
although it must be known that some lies may be venial.
It is a mortal sin, for instance, to lie in matters of faith. This concerns
professors, prelates and preachers, and is the gravest of all other kinds of
lies: "There shall be among you lying teachers, who shall bring in sects of
perdition." Then there are those who lie to wrong their neighbor: "Lie not
to one another." These two kinds of lies, therefore, are mortal sins.
There are some who lie for their own advantage, and this in a variety of ways.
Sometimes it is out of humility. This may be the case in confession, about which
St. Augustine says: "Just as one must avoid concealing what he has committed, so
also he must not mention what he has not committed." "Hath God any need of your
lie?" And again: "There is one that humbles himself wickedly, and his
interior is full of deceit; and there is one that humblest himself exceedingly
with a great lowness."
There are others who tell lies out of shame, namely, when one tells a falsehood
believing that he is telling the truth, and on becoming aware of it he is
ashamed to retract: "In no wise speak against the truth, but be ashamed of the
lie of thy ignorance." Other some lie for desired results as when they wish
to gain or avoid something: "We have placed our hope in lies, and by falsehood
we are protected." And again: "He that trusts in lies feeds the winds."
Finally, there are some who lie to benefit another, that is, when they wish to
free someone from death, or danger, or some other loss. This must be avoided, as
St. Augustine tells us: "Accept no person against thy own person, nor against
thy soul a lie." But others lie only out of vanity, and this, too, must
never be done, lest the habit of such lead us to mortal sin: "For the bewitching
of vanity obscures good things."
1. St. Thomas also treats of this Commandment in the "Summa Theol.," II-II,
Q. cxxii, art. 6.
2. "The Commandment specially prohibits that species of false testimony which is
given on oath in a court of justice. The witness swears by the Deity and thus
pledges God's holy name for the truth of what he says, and this has very great
weight and constitutes the strongest claim for credit. Such testimony,
therefore, because it is dangerous, is particularly prohibited. When no legal
exceptions can be taken against a sworn witness, and when he cannot be convicted
of open dishonesty and malice, even the judge himself cannot reject his
testimony. This is especially true since it is commanded by divine authority
that 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand' " ("Roman
Catechism," "Eighth Commandment," 3).
3. Lev., xix. 16.
4. Matt., xviii. 15.
5. Prov., xix. 5.
6. Deut., xix. 18-21.
7. Prov., xxv. 18.
8. Lev., xix. 15. "This Commandment prohibits deceit, lying, and perjury on the
part of witnesses. The same prohibition also applies to plaintiffs, defendants,
promoters, representatives, procurators, and advocates; in a word, all who take
any part in lawsuits. . . . Finally, God forbids all testimony which may injure
others or do them injustice, whether it be a matter of legal evidence or not"
("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 6).
9. Rom., i. 30.
10. Prov., xxii. 1.
11. Eccles., x. 11.
12. Ecclus., xxviii. 28.
13. Prov., xxv. 23. "This Commandment not only forbids false testimony, but also
the abominable sin of detraction. This is a moral pestilence which is the
poisoned source of many and calamitous evils. . . . That we may see the nature
of the sin of detraction more clearly, we must know that reputation is injured
not only by calumniating the character. but also by exaggerating the faults of
others. He who makes known the secret sin of any man at any time or place
unnecessarily, or before persons who have no right to know, is also rightly
regarded as a detractor and evil-speaker, if his revelation seriously injures
the other's reputation" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 9).
14. Prov., vi. 16, 19.
15. Ps. ix. 24
16. Isa., iii. 12. "Flatterers and sycophants are among those who violate this
Commandment, for by fawning and insincere praise they gain the hearing and good
will of those whose favor. money, and honors they seek" ("Roman Catechism,"
"loc. cit.," 11).
17. Ecclus, vii. 14.
18. Matt., xxvi. 73.
19. John, viii. 44.
20. Gen. iii. 4.
21. Eph., iv. 25.
22. Ecclus., xxxiv. 4.
23. Wis., i. 11.
24. Ps. v. 7.
25. II Peter, ii. 1.
26. Col., iii. 9.
27. Job, xiii. 7.
28. Ecclus., xix.
29. "Ibid.," iv. 30.
30. Isa., xxviii. 15.
31. Prov., x. 4.
32. Eccles., iv. 26.
33. Wis., iv. 12.
(TENTH) COMMANDMENT: "Thou shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's
"Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods." There is this difference between
the divine and the human laws that human law judges only deeds and words,
whereas the divine law judges also thoughts. The reason is because human laws
are made by men who see things only exteriorly, but the divine law is from God,
who sees both external things and the very interior of men. "Thou art the God of
my heart." And again: "Man sees those things that appear, but the Lord
beholds the heart." Therefore, having considered those Commandments which
concern words and deeds, we now treat of the Commandments about thoughts. For
with God the intention is taken for the deed, and thus the words, "Thou shall
not covet," mean to include not only the taking by act, but also the intention
to take. Therefore, it says: "Thou shall not even covet thy neighbor's goods."
There are a number of reasons for this.
The first reason for the Commandment is that man's desire has no limits, because
desire itself is boundless. But he who is wise will aim at some particular end,
for no one should have aimless desires: "A covetous man shall not be satisfied
with money." But the desires of man are never satisfied, because the heart of
man is made for God. Thus, says St. Augustine: "Thou hast made us for Thee, O
Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee." Nothing, therefore,
less than God can satisfy the human heart: "Who satisfies thy desire with good
The second reason is that covetousness destroys peace of heart, which is indeed
highly delightful. The covetous man is ever solicitous to acquire what he lacks,
and to hold that which he has: "The fullness of the rich will not suffer him to
sleep." "For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also." It was for
this, says St. Gregory, that Christ compared riches to thorns.
Thirdly, covetousness in a man of wealth renders his riches useless both to
himself and to others, because he desires only to hold on to them: "Riches are
not comely for a covetous man and a niggard." The fourth reason is that it
destroys the equality of justice: "Neither shall thou take bribes, which even
blind the wise, and pervert the words of the just." And again: "He that
loves gold shall not be justified." The fifth reason is that it destroys the
love of God and neighbor, for says St. Augustine: "The more one loves, the less
one covets," and also the more one covets, the less one loves. "Nor despise thy
dear brother for the sake of gold." And just as "No man can serve two
masters," so neither can he serve "God and mammon."
Finally, covetousness produces all kinds of wickedness. It is "the root of all
evil," says St. Paul, and when this root is implanted in the heart it brings
forth murder and theft and all kinds of evil. "They that will become rich, fall
into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and
hurtful desires which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the desire of
money is the root of all evil." And note, furthermore, that covetousness is
a mortal sin when one covets one's neighbor's goods without reason; and even if
there be a reason, it is a venial sin.
1. St. Thomas places the Tenth Commandment (in the present traditional
enumeration) before the Ninth. The Tenth Commandment is wider in extension than
the Ninth, which is specific. The "Roman Catechism" ("Ninth and Tenth
Commandments" 1) treats both the Ninth and Tenth Commandments together, and
remarks that "what is commanded in these two precepts amounts to this, that
to observe the preceding Commandments we must be particularly careful not to
covet. For he who does not covet, being content with what he has, will not
desire what belongs to others, but will rejoice in their prosperity, giving
glory to God."
2. Ps. lxxii. 26.
3. I Kings, xvi. 7.
4. Eccles., v. 9.
5. "Confessions," I.
6. Ps. cii. 5.
7. Eccles., v. 11.
8. Matt. vi. 21.
9. Luke viii. 14.
10. Ecclus., xiv. 3.
11. Exod., xxiii. 8.
12. Ecclus., xxxi. 5.
13. "Ibid.," vii. 20.
14. Matt., vi. 24.
15. I Tim., vi. 9, 10.
16. "Another reason for these two Commandments is that they clearly and in
definite terms forbid some things not expressly prohibited in the Sixth and
Seventh Commandments. The Seventh Commandment, for instance, forbids an unjust
desire to take what belongs to another; but the Tenth Commandment further
prohibits even to covet it in any way, even though it could be acquired justly
and lawfully--if we foresee that by such acquisition our neighbor would suffer
some loss. . . . Another reason why this sort of vicious desire is condemned is
that it has for its object that which belongs to another, such as a house,
maidservant, field, wife, ox, ass, and many other things, all of which the law
of God forbids us to covet, simply because they belong to another. The desire
for such things, when consented to, is criminal, and is numbered among the most
grievous sins. When the mind, yielding to the impulse of evil desires, is
pleased with evil or does not resist it, sin is necessarily committed" ("Roman
Catechism," loc. cit.," 11).
(NINTH) COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife."
St. John says in his first Epistle that "all that is in the world is the
concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of
life." Now, all that is desirable is included in these three, two of which
are forbidden by the precept: "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house."
Here "house," signifying height, refers to avarice, for "glory and wealth shall
be in his house." This means that he who desires the house, desires honors
and riches. And thus after the precept forbidding desire for the house of one's
neighbor comes the Commandment prohibiting concupiscence of the flesh: "Thou
shall not covet thy neighbor's wife."
Because of the corruption which resulted from the Fall, none has been free from
concupiscence except Christ and the glorious Virgin. And wherever there is
concupiscence, there is either venial or mortal sin, provided that it is allowed
to dominate the reason. Hence the precept is not, let sin not be; for it is
written: "I know that there dwells not in me [that is to say, in my flesh] that
which is good."
First of all, sin rules in the flesh when, by giving consent to it,
concupiscence reigns in the heart. And, therefore, St. Paul adds "so as to obey
the lusts thereof" to the words: "Let not sin reign in your mortal body."
Accordingly the Lord says: "Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her,
hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." For with God the
intention is taken for the act.
rules in the flesh when the concupiscence of our heart is expressed in words:
"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." And again: "Let no evil
speech proceed from your mouth." Therefore, one is not without sin who
composes frivolous songs. Even the philosophers so thought, and poets who wrote
amatory verses were sent into exile. Lastly, sin rules in the flesh when at the
behest of desire the members are made to serve iniquity: "As you have yielded
your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity unto iniquity." These,
therefore, are the progressive steps of concupiscence.
WAYS TO OVERCOME CONCUPISCENCE
We must realize that the avoidance of concupiscence demands much labor, for it
is based on something within us. It is as hard as trying to capture an enemy in
one's own household. However, this desire can be overcome in four ways.
Firstly, by fleeing the external occasions such as, for instance, bad company;
and in fact whatever may be an occasion for this sin: "Gaze not upon a maiden
lest her beauty be a stumbling-block to thee. . . . Look not around about thee
in the ways of the city, nor wander up and down in the streets thereof. Turn
away thy face from a woman dressed up, and gaze not about upon another's beauty.
For many have perished by the beauty of a woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as
a fire." And again: "Can a man hide fire in his bosom, and his garments not
burn?" And thus Lot was commanded to flee, "neither stay thou in all the
The second way is by not giving an opening to thoughts which of themselves are
the occasion of lustful desires. And this must be done by mortification of the
flesh: "I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection." The third way is
perseverance in prayer: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who
build it." And also: "I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except
God gave it." Again: "This kind is not cast out save by prayer and
fasting." All this is not unlike to a fight between two persons, one of whom
you desire to win, the other to lose. You must sustain the one and withdraw all
support from the other. So also between the spirit and the flesh there is a
continual combat. Now, if you wish the spirit to win, you must assist it by
prayer, and likewise you must resist the flesh by such means as fasting; for by
fasting the flesh is weakened.
The fourth way is to keep oneself busy with wholesome occupations: "Idleness
hath taught much evil." Again: "This was the iniquity of Sodom thy sister,
pride, fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of her." St.
Jerome says: "Be always busy in doing something good, so that the devil may find
you ever occupied." Now, study of the Scriptures is the best of all occupations,
as St. Jerome tells us: "Love to study the Scriptures and you will not love the
vices of the flesh."
1. John, ii. 16.
2. The text of Exodus xx. 17, which contains the Ninth and Tenth Commandments,
reads as follows: "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house: neither shall thou
desire his wife, nor his servant, nor his hand-maid, nor his ox, nor his ass,
nor anything that is his."
3. Ps. cxi. 3.
4. "He [the pastor] will show how these two Commandments are dissimilar; how one
covetousness looks only to utility and interest (the tenth), the other to
unlawful desire and criminal pleasure (the ninth). If one covets a field or
house, he acts out of desire for gain or utility, while he who covets another
man's wife yields to a desire for criminal pleasure rather than monetary gain"
("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit., 2).
5. "Concupiscence, the fuel of sin, which originated in sin, is always present
in our fallen nature: from it we know that we are born in sin, and, therefore,
we suppliantly fly to Him who alone can efface the sordid stains of sin" ("Roman
Catechism," "loc. cit.," 5).
6. Rom., vii. 18.
7. "lbid.," vi. 12.
8. Matt., v. 28.
9. Matt., xii. 34.
10. Eph., iv. 29.
11. Rom., vi. 19.
12. Ecclus., ix. 5-9.
13. Prov., vi. 27.
14. Gen., xix. 17.
15. Cor., ix. 27.
16. Ps. cxxvi. 1.
17. Wis., viii. 21.
18. Matt., xvii. 20.
19. Ecclus., xxxiii. 29.
20. Ezech., xvi. 49.
21. "Ad Paulin."
SUMMARY OF THE
These are the ten precepts to which Our Lord referred when He said: "If thou
wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt., xix. 17). There are two
main principles of all the Commandments, namely, love of God and love of
neighbor. The man that loves God must necessarily do three things: (1) he must
have no other God. And in support of this is the Commandment: "Thou shall not
have strange gods"; (2) he must give God all honor. And so it is commanded:
"Thou shall not take the name of God in vain"; (3) he must freely take his rest
in God. Hence: "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day."
But to love God worthily, one must first of all love one's neighbor. And so:
"Honor thy father and mother." Then, one must avoid doing harm to one's neighbor
in act. "Thou shall not kill" refers to our neighbor's person; "Thou shall not
commit adultery" refers to the person united in marriage to our neighbor; "Thou
shall not steal" refers to our neighbor's external goods. We must also avoid
injury to our neighbor both by word, "Thou shall not bear false witness," and by
thought, "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods" and "Thou shall not covet
thy neighbor's wife."