EXPLANATION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Articles 3-12 translated by translated by Joseph B. Collins, New York, 1939
Edited, with prologue and articles 1-2 added, and html formated by Joseph Kenny, O.P.
- Love of God
- Love of neighbor
- THE FIRST COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Have Strange Gods Before Me."
- SECOND COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord your God in Vain."
- THE THIRD COMMANDMENT "Remember to Keep Holy the Sabbath Day."
- THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT "Honor your father and your mother, that you may be long-lived upon the land which the Lord your God will give you"
- THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Kill."
- THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Commit Adultery."
- THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Steal."
- THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against your Neighbor."
- THE NINTH (TENTH) COMMANDMENT "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods."
- THE TENTH (NINTH) COMMANDMENT "You Shall Not Covet your Neighbor's Wife."
Three things are necessary for man to be saved: (1) knowledge of what is to be believed, (2) knowledge of what is to be desired, and (3) knowledge of what is to be done.
The first is taught in the Creed, where knowledge of the articles of faith is given; the second is in the Lord’s Prayer; the third is in the Law.
A fourfold law
Here we are concerned with knowledge of what is to be done, and with regard to this there is a fourfold law:
(1) The first is the law of nature, and that is nothing other than the light of the intellect planted in us by God, by which we know what should be done and what should be avoided. God gave this light and this law in creation. But many believe that they are excused by ignorance if they do not observe this law. Against them the Prophet says in Psalm 4:6: “Many say: who will show us good things?”—as if they do not know what they should do. But he replies (v. 7): “The light of your face, Lord, is stamped on us”—that is, the light of the intellect, through which we know what should be done. For no one is ignorant that what he would not like to be done to himself he should not do to others, and similar norms. Yet, though God gave man this law of nature in creation, the Devil has sown in man another law on top of it, that of concupiscence. For in the first man, to the extent that the soul was subject to God, keeping the divine precepts, his flesh was also subject in all things to the soul or reason. But after the Devil by his suggestion drew man away from he observance of the divine commands, his flesh likewise became disobedient to reason. The result is that, although man may wish good according to reason, nevertheless by concupiscence he tends to the contrary. That is what the Apostle says (Rm 7:23): “But I see another law in my members, fighting the law of my mind.” Thus frequently he law of concupiscence corrupts the law of nature and the order of reason. And therefore the Apostle adds (ibid.): “...captivating me in the law of sin, which is in my members.”
(2) Because the law of nature was destroyed by the law of concupiscence, man needed to be brought back to the works of virtue and drawn away from vice, and for that the law of Scripture was necessary. But note that man is drawn from evil and led to the good from two motives. The first is fear, for the first and strongest motive for avoiding sin is the thought of the pains of hell and of the final judgment. Therefore it is said (Sir 1:16): “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord,” and (1:27), “The fear of the Lord drives away sin.” Although someone who avoids sin because of fear is not yet just, nevertheless his justification begins there. In this way man is drawn away from evil and led to good through the law of Moses, while those who transgressed it were punished by death—(Heb 10:28): Anyone who violates the law of Moses, without any mercy at the testimony of two or three should die.”
(3) But because that method was insufficient, and the law given by Moses which drew people from evil by fear was insufficient, in that it restrained the hand but did not restrain desire, therefore there came another way of restraining from evil and inducing people to good—that is the method of love. Thus there was given the law of Christ, that is, of the Gospel, which is the law of love.
A triple difference should be noted between the law of fear and the law of love: (a) First, the law of fear makes slaves of its observers, whereas the law of love makes them free. For one who acts just out of fear acts as a slave, whereas one who acts out of love acts as a free person or a son. Thus the Apostle (2 Cor 3:17) says: “Where there is the spirit of the Lord, there is freedom,” because such people are acting out of love like sons. (b) The second difference is that the observers of the first law were rewarded with temporal goods (Is 1:19): “If you are willing and hear me, you shall eat the goods of the land.” But the observers of the second law are rewarded with heavenly goods (Mt 19:17): “If you want to enter life, observe the commandments,” and (Mt 3:2): “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near.” (c) The third difference is that the first law is heavy (Acts 15:10): “Why to you try to impose a yoke on our necks which even our fathers could not bear?” The second law, however, is light (Mt 11:30): “For my yoke is easy and my burden light;” and (Rm 8:15): “You did not receive the spirit of servitude again in fear, but you received the spirit of adoption of sons.”
As has been said, there is a fourfold law: the first, the law of nature which God implanted at creation; the second the law of concupiscence; the third the law of Scripture, and the fourth, he law of charity and grace, which is the law of Christ. But it is clear that not all can sweat away to gain knowledge. Therefore Christ gave an abridged law which all can know, and no one can be excused from observing it because of ignorance. And that is the law of divine love. The Apostle says (Rm 9:28): “The Lord will issue a brief statement on the earth.” But it should be realized that this law must be the rule of all human acts. We see that manufactured goods are good and right when they measure up to a standard. So also any human work is right and virtuous when it harmonizes with the standard of divine love, and when it is out of tune with this standard it is not good or right or perfect. For human acts to be good, they must harmonize with the standard of divine love.
Four effects of charity
At this point note that this law of divine love produces four very desirable effects in man: (1) First it causes spiritual life in him. For it is clear that what is loved is inside the lover. Therefore whoever loves God has him in himself (1 Jn 4:16): “Whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him.” It is also the nature of love that it transforms the lover into what is loved (Hos 9:10): “They became abhorrent, just like the things they loved.” But if we love God, we become divine, because, as it is said (1 Cor 6:17): “Whoever sticks to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” Augustine says, “Just as the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul.” And that is clear, because we say that the body lives through the soul when it performs living functions, such as action and motion; but when the soul leaves, the body neither acts nor moves. Likewise the soul acts virtuously and perfectly when it acts through charity, through which God dwells in it; but without charity it cannot act (1 Jn 3:14): “Whoever does not love remains in death.” It should be noted, however, that anyone who has all the gifts of the Holy Spirit apart from love does not have life. Whether it is the gift of tongues or the gift of faith or any other, without charity they do not give life. For if a dead body is dressed in gold and precious stones, it nonetheless remains dead. So this is the first effect of charity.
The second effect of charity is the observance of the divine commandments. Gregory says: “The love of God is never lazy. It does great things if it is there; if it refuses to work it is not love.” So a clear sign of charity is promptness in carrying out the divine precepts. For we see lovers doing great and difficult things for the sake of their beloved (Jn 14:23): “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” We should note that whoever keeps the law of divine love fulfils the whole law. Yet the divine commandments are twofold: Some are affirmative, and charity fulfils these, because the fulfilment of the law of commandments is love, by which the commandments are observed. Other commandments are prohibitive; charity also fulfils these, because it does not act perversely, as the Apostle says (1 Cor 13).
The third effect of charity is to be a bulwark against adversity. For no adversity hurts someone who has charity, but it is all converted into good use (Rm 8:28): “For those who love God, everything works together for good.” Moreover, even adverse and difficult things seem easy to a lover, as we clearly see by observation.
The fourth effect of charity is that it leads to happiness. For eternal happiness is promised only to those who have charity. For everything without from charity is insufficient (2 Tim 4:8): “After this a crown of justice awaits me, which the just judge will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who love his coming.” Note that only a difference in charity, and not a difference in any other virtue, will make a difference in happiness. For many people were more abstemious than the Apostles, but they exceed all others in happiness because of the excellence of their charity. For they had the first fruits of the Spirit, as the Apostle says (Rm 8). So any difference in happiness comes from a difference in charity.
So the four effects of charity are evident.
Other effects of charity
Besides these, charity has some other effects which should not be passed over. (1) The first of these is the remission of sin. We see that in our human life. If someone offends another and later loves him intimately, the offended lets go the offence against him because of love. Likewise God forgives the sins of those who love him (1 Pt 4:8): “Charity covers a multitude of sins.” He pointedly said “covers”, because God does not see them as something to be punished. And, although he said “covers a multitude”, nevertheless Solomon says (Prov 10:12) that “charity covers all offenses.” The example of Mary Magdalene exemplifies this best (Lk 7:47): “many sins are forgiven her;” and the reason is given: “because she loved much.” But someone may say, “Since charity is sufficient to wipe away sins, penance is not necessary.” But we should observe that no one really loves if he is not really repentent. For it is clear that the more we love someone, the more we are sorry if we offend him. And this is one effect of charity.
Another effect of charity is that it causes illumination of the heart. As Job (37:19) says: “We are all wrapped in darkness.” For we often do not know what to do or desire. But charity teaches everything necessary for salvation. Therefore it is said (1 Jn 2:27): “His anointing teaches you about everything.” And that is because where there is charity, there there is the Holy Spirit, who knows everything and leads us onto the right way, as said in Psalm 142. Therefore it is said (Sir 2:10 Vulgate): “You who fear God, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened,” that is, to know what is necessary for salvation.
Another effect of charity is to produce perfect joy in man. For no one really has joy without being in charity. For anyone who desires something is not happy or joyful or satisfied until he gets it. In temporal things something not possessed can be desired, but when possessed it can be despised and cause boredom. But that is not so in spiritual things, for one who loves God has him, and therefore the spirit of one who loves and desires him is satisfied in him. For “whoever remains in charity remains in God and God in him,” as is said in 1 John 4:16.
Another effect of charity is perfect peace. Temporal things can often be desired, but when they are possessed, the spirit of the one who desired them is not satisfied, but after getting one thing, he desires another (Is 57:20): “The heart of the wicked man is like a rough ocean which cannot be quiet.” And (ibid): “There is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord.” But that does not happen with love of God. For whoever loves God has perfect peace (Ps 118:165): “Great peace to those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” And that is because only God can fill our desire. For God is greater than our heart, as the Apostle says, and therefore Augustine says in Book I of his Confessions: “You made us for you, Lord, and our heart is not at rest until it rests in you.” And (Ps 102:5): “He fills your desire with good things.”
Another effect of charity is to give man great dignity. For all creatures serve the divine majesty— since they were all made by him—as manufactured goods serve their maker. But charity turns a slave into a free man and friend. So the Lord said to the Apostles (Jn 15:15), “I no longer call you slaves/servants... but friends.” But was Paul not a slave, like he other Apostles who described themselves that way? In answer, we must distinguish two kinds of servitude. The first is that of fear, and that is painful and no meritorious. For anyone who refrains from sin only because of fear of punishment does not merit because of this, but is still a slave. The second kind of servitude is that of love. If someone acts not from fear of judgment but from divine love, he is not acting like a slave, but like a free man, because he does so voluntarily. Therefor he says: “I no longer call you slaves.” And why? the Apostle answers (Rm 8:15): “You did not receive the spirit of servitude again in fear, but you received the spirit of adoption of children.” For there is no fear in charity, as is said (1 Jn 14), since fear is penal, but charity makes us not only free people but also sons, so that we can be called and be sons of God, as it is said (1 Jn 3). For an outsider becomes the adopted son of someone when he acquires a right to his property. So also charity acquires for us a right to the inheritance of God, which is eternal life, because, as it is said (Rm 8:16-17): “The Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirits that we are the sons of God. And if we are sons, we are also heirs, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ.” And (Wis 5:5): “See how they are numbered among the sons of God.”
How to get and increase charity
So much for the benefits of charity. It now remains to work hard to acquire it and hold onto it. But we must realize that no one can possess charity on his own, but it is the gift of God alone. So John says (1 Jn 4:10): “Not as if we loved God, but he first loved us.” That is, he does not love us because we first loved him, but the fact that we love him is brought about in us by his love. We should also realize that, although all gifts are from the Father of lights, that gift of charity surpasses all other gifts. For all the others can be had without charity and the Holy Spirit, but with charity the Holy Spirit necessarily must also be had. The Apostle says (Rm 5:5): “The charity of God is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Whether we talk of the gift of tongues or of knowledge or of prophecy, any of them can be had without grace and the Holy Spirit.
In spite of the fact that charity is a divine gift, to possess it requires a disposition on our part. So it should be known that there are two requisites for acquiring charity and two others for increasing the charity one already possesses. This is clear from human experience. For if we hear good things about someone, we are fired up to love him. So when we hear the words of God, we are fired up to love him (Ps 98:140): “Your word is fire-tested, and your servant loves it.” Likewise (Ps 104:19): “The word of the Lord fire-tested him.” Therefore the two disciples, burning with divine love, said (Lk 24:32): “Weren’t our hearts burning within us when he spoke on the way and opened the Scripture for us?” And in Acts 10 it is written that while Peter preached the Holy Spirit fell on those listening to the divine word. And it often happens in preaching that those who come with a hard heart are fired with divine love because of the preaching message.
The second requisite is continual thinking about good things (Ps 38:4): “My heart became hot within me.” So if you want to acquire divine love, meditate on good things. Someone would have to be very hard if, after thinking about the divine favors he received, the dangers he avoided and the happiness promised him by God, he is not fired with divine love. Augustine said: “It would take a hard-hearted man who, even if he doesn’t want to show love, would refuse to repay it.” And on a general level, just as bad thoughts destroy charity, so good thoughts acquire, nourish and conserve it. So we are commanded (Is 1:16): “Remove the evil of your doings [Vulgate: thoughts] from my sight. And (Wis 1:3): “Perverse thoughts separate one from God.”
There are two other factors that increase the charity one already has. The first is the heart’s separation from earthly things. For the heart cannot be perfectly directed towards disparate things. So no one can love God and the world. Therefore, the more our heart is removed from love of earthly things, the more it is settled in divine love. So Augustine says in the Book of 83 Questions: “What poisons charity is the hope of gaining or retaining temporal things. What nourishes it is the diminishing of cupidity. What perfects it is the elimination of cupidity, because the root of all evils is cupidity.” So whoever wants to nourish his charity should concentrate on reducing cupidity. Cupidity is the love of acquiring or receiving temporal things. The beginning of reducing it is to fear the Lord. He alone cannot be feared without some love. And this is the reason religious orders were instituted, so that in and through them the human heart can be drawn away from earthly and corruptible things and lifted up to divine things. This is symbolized in the passage (2 Mac 1:22): “The sun shone, which previously had been under a cloud.” The sun, that is, the human intellect, is under a cloud when it is fastened on earthly things, but it shines out when it is removed and taken away from the love of earthly things. Then it shines, and then divine love grows in it.
The second factor helping love to grow is firm patience in adversity. For it is clear that when we carry heavy burdens for the sake of the one we love, love itself is not destroyed, but rather grows (Sg 8:7): “Many waters,” that is, many tribulations, “could not extinguish charity.” And therefore holy men who put up with adversities for the sake of God and more firmly rooted in his love, just as a craftsman loves more the work he put more effort into. And that is why the more sufferings the faithful endure for God’s sake, the more they are raised high in his love (Gen 7:17): “The waters”, that is, tribulations, “multiplied and the ark”, that is, the Church or the soul of the just man, was lifted high.”
Love of God
Before his passion, the doctors of the Law asked Christ which was the greatest and first commandment. He said (Mt 22:37): “Love the Lord your God with all your heard, with all your soul and all your mind; this is the greatest and first commandment.” And that is truly that is the greatest, most noble and most beneficial of all the commandments, as has adequately been shown. For in this commandment all the other commandments are fulfilled.
But to fulfill this commandment of love perfectly, four things are required. The first is the recollection of the divine benefits, because all that we have, whether our soul or body or exterior things, we have them all from God. Therefore we must serve him with all this and love him with a perfect heart. A man would be extremely ungrateful if, after thinking of all the benefits he received from someone, he did not love him. With this in mind, David said (1 Chron 29:14): “All belongs to you. What we received from you we give to you.” Therefore in his praise it is said (Sir 47:10): “With all his heart he praised the Lord, and loved the God who made him.”
The second is consideration of the divine excellence. For God is greater than our hearts (1 Jn 3); so if we serve him with our whole heart and strength we still fall short (Sir. 43:32-33): “When you praise the Lord, exalt him as much as you can, for he will surpass even that. When you exalt him put forth all your strength and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise him enough.”
The third is renunciation of worldly and earthly things. For it is a big offense against God to equate him with anything else (Is 40:18): “To whom can you compare God?” We liken other things to God when we love temporal and corruptible things along with God. But this is altogether impossible. So it is said (Is 28:20): “The bed is too short to stretch out in it, and the covering is too short to wrap oneself in it.” There the heart of man is compared to a cramped bed and a short cover. For the human heart is cramped with regard to God, so that when you take into your heart things other than him you push him out. for he cannot endure any bed-fellow in the soul, just like a husband with a wife. And so he himself states (Ex 20:5): “I, Yahweh your God am a jealous God.” For he does not want us to love anything as much as him or besides him.
The fourth is complete avoidance of sin. For no one can love God when he is living in sin (Mt 6:24): “You cannot serve God and mammon.” So, if you are living in sin, you do not love God. But that man loved God who said (Is 38:3): “Remember how I walked before you faithfully with a perfect heart.” Also Elijah said (1 Kg 18:21): “For how long will you go on limping with two opinions?” As a lame person bends this way and that, so a sinner wavers between sinning and seeking God. Therefore the Lord said (Joel 2:12): “Turn to me with all your heart.”
But against that command, two kinds of people sin: (1) those who avoid one kind of sin, such as unchastity, while falling into another, such as usury. But they are still condemned, because “whoever offends in one point is guilty of breaking the whole law” (Jm 2:10). (2) Then there are those who confess some sins, and others not, or they split their confession between two or more confessors. But these do not merit, and rather sin by doing so, because they intend to deceive God and they are making a rift in the sacrament.
Against the first group someone said, “It is unholy to hope for half-pardon from God.” As for the second group (Ps 61:9): “Pour out your hearts before him,” because in confession all is to be revealed.
It has now been shown that man must give himself to God. Now we have to see what is in him that he owes to God. Man owes God four things: his heart, his soul, his mind and his strength. And so it is said (Mt 22:37): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength.” The “heart” here stands for intention. Intention has the power of drawing all actions under its sway, so that any good works done with a bad intention are turned into bad works (Lk 11:34): “If your eye”, that is, your intention, “is evil, your whole body will be dark;” that is, the totality of your good works will be dark. Therefore, in whatever we do our intention should be set on God. The Apostle says (1 Cor 10:31): “Whether you eat or drink or do any other thing, do all for the glory of God.”
But a good intention is not enough, but there must also be a good will, which is indicated by the term “soul”. For it often happens that someone acts with a good intention, but to no avail, because a good will is missing. For example, someone may steal to feed the poor; his intention is right, but he is lacking the requisite good will. So no evil can be excused because it is done with a good intention (Rm 3:8): “Those who [say we] say ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’ are justly condemned.” A good will accompanies an intention when the will itself harmonizes with the divine will, and that we ask every day: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And (Ps 39:9): “I delight to do your will, my God.” That is why it is said “with all your soul.” For the soul is often used in Scripture for the will, as in (Heb 10:38): “If he shrinks back, my soul”, that is, my will, “has no pleasure in him.”
But sometimes a good intention and good will are present, but there is some sin in the intellect. Therefore the whole intellect must be given to God. The Apostle says (2 Cor 10:5): “taking every intellect [thought] captive to obey Christ.” For many do not sin by deed, but they like to think much about sins. Against them it is said (Is 1:16): “Remove the evil of your thoughts [deeds].” There are also many who trust in their own wisdom and refuse to accept the Faith; such are not giving their minds to God. Against them it is said (Prov 3:5): “Do no rely on your own perception.”
But that is not enough. One must give God all one’s power and strength (Ps 58:10 Vulgate): “I will guard my strength with you.” For there are some who use their strength to sin, thereby displaying their power. Against these it is said (Is 5:22): “Woe to you who are heroes at drinking wine, valiant men at mixing strong drink.” Others show their power or strength to hurt their neighbors, whereas they should have displayed it by helping them (Prov 24:2): “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”
So to love God, the following must be given to God: intention, will, mind and strength.
Love of neighbor
When Christ was asked which is the greatest commandment, he gave two answers to the one question. The first was “You shall love the Lord your God,” which we have talked about. The second was “and your neighbor as yourself.” At this point we should point out that whoever observes this fulfills the whole law. The Apostle said (Rm 13:10): “The fulfilment of the law is love.”
Four motives for loving our neighbor
There are four motives for loving our neighbor: The first is divine love, since it is said (1 Jn 4:20): “If anyone says that he loves God, while he hates his brother, he is a liar.” For anyone who says he loves someone, while hating his son or his members, he is lying. But all of us faithful are sons and members of Christ. The Apostle says (1 Cor 12:27): “You are the body of Christ, and each of you a member of it.” Therefore anyone who hates his neighbor does not love God.
The second motive is the divine precept. For when Christ was going away, he stressed this commandment to his disciples above all other commandments, saying (Jn 15:12): “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” For no one is observing the divine commandments if he hates his neighbor. So the sign of observing the divine law is love of neighbor. So the Lord said (Jn 13:35): “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” He does not point to raising the dead or any other glaring sign, but this is the sign: “if you have love for one another.” The blessed John weighed this well when he said (1 Jn 3:14), “We know that we have been transferred from death to life.” Why? “Because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death.”
The third motive is our sharing in the same nature, as it is said (Sir 13:19): “Every animal loves its like.” Since all man are alike in nature, they should love one anther. So to hate one’s neighbor is not only against the divine law, but also against the law of nature.
The fourth motive is the advantages it brings. For everything that one person has is useful to another through charity. For this is what unites the Church and makes everything common (Ps 118:63): “I am a companion of all who fear you and keep your precepts.”
Five requisites in loving our neighbor
So “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the second commandment of the Law, and it concerns love of neighbor. We have discussed the fact that we must love our neighbor. Now we must turn to the way we must love him, and that is indicated in the words “as yourself”. Regarding this, there are five points we must observe in loving our neighbor:
The first is that we must love him really as ourselves. We do this if we love him for his own sake, not because of our own interest. Here recall that there are three kinds of love. The first is utilitarian (Sir 6:10): “he is a friend at table, but will not be around on the day of need.” That is certainly not true love. It vanishes when the advantage vanishes. In that case we do not wish good for our neighbor, but rather our own advantage. There is another love directed at what is pleasurable. This too is not true love, because when the pleasure vanishes it vanishes. In that case we do not wish good primarily for our neighbor, but rather we want his good for ourselves. The third kind of love is for the sake of virtue, and only that is true love. For then we do not love our neighbor in view of our own good, but for his own good.
The second point is that we must love ordinately, that is, we must not love him above God or as much as God, but along with him in the way you must love yourself (Sg 2:4 Vulgate): “He ordered love in me.” The Lord taught this order (Mt 10:37): “Whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me.”
The third point is that we must love our neighbor in practice. For you do not only love yourself, but you also take care to provide for yourself and avoid evil. You must do the same for your neighbor (1 Jn 3:18): “Let us not love in words or with our tongue, but in deed and in truth.” But certainly the worst people are those who love with their mouth but do harm in their hearts. The Apostle says (Rm 12:9): “love without pretense”.
The fourth point is that we must persevere in loving our neighbor, just as you persevere in loving yourself (Prov 17:17): “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity;” that is, he loves in bad times as much as he does in good times. Moreover, a friend is really proven in a time of adversity.
But note that two things help preserve friendship. The first is patience: “A quarrelsome man enkindles strife,” as it is said (Prov 26:21). The second is humility, which causes the former, that is patience (Prov 13:10 Vulgate): “Among the proud there is always strife.” For anyone who thinks big about himself and despises another cannot endure the latter’s shortcomings.
The fifth point is that we must love with justice and holiness, so that we do not love to bring him to sin, because you should not love yourself that way, since by doing so you lose God. Thus it is said (Jn 15:9): “Remain in my love.” This is the love spoken of (Sir 24:24 Vulgate): “I am the mother of beautiful love.”
Loving sinner and hating sin
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” This precept the Jews and Pharisees badly understood, believing that God commanded them to love their friends and hate their enemies. Therefore, by “neighbors” they understood only friends. Christ meant to repudiate this understanding when he said (Mt 5:44): “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” Note that whoever hates his brother is not in the state of salvation (1 Jn 2:9): “He who hates his brother is in the darkness.”
We must be aware, however, of texts to the contrary. For the saints hated some people (Ps 138:22): “I hated them with perfect hatred.” And in the Gospel (Lk 14:26): “If anyone does not hate his father and mother and wife and sons and brothers and sisters, even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.” We should realize that in all that we do, what Christ did should be our example. For God loves and hates. In any man two things should be considered: his nature and the wrong. What is of nature in man should be loved, what is wrong should be hated. So if anyone wished a person to be in hell, he would be hating his nature, but if he wished him to be good, he would be hating the sin, which should always be hated (Ps 5:7): “You hate all who do evil.” And (Wis 11:25), “Lord, you love all that exists, and hate nothing which you have made.” See, then, what God loves and hates: He loves what is of nature and hates what is wrong.
We should realize, however, that sometimes a person can do evil without sinning, that is, when he does evil so that he may desire good, because God also does this. For instance, when a man is sick and is converted to good, whereas while he was well he was evil. In the same way someone can be converted to good when he meets adversity, after being evil while living in prosperity, according to the text (Is 28:19): “Terror alone shall convey the message.” Another case is to desire the evil of a tyrant destroying the Church, in as much as you desire the good of the Church through the destruction of the tyrant; thus (2 Mac 1:17): “Blessed in every way be God who has punished the wicked.” And all must want this not just by willing it, but also by doing it. For it is not a sin justly to hang the evil; for they are ministers of God who doe this, according the Apostle (Rm 13), and these people are acting in love, because punishment is given at times to castigate evil, and at times for the sake of a greater and divine good. For the good of a city is a greater good than the life of one man. But note that it is not enough not to wish evil, but one must also wish good, that is the correction of the sinner and eternal life.
For someone can wish the good of another in two ways. One way is general, in so far as the person is a creature of God and is capable of partaking in eternal life. The other way is special, in so far as the person is a friend or companion. No one is excluded from a general love, for everyone should pray for everyone, and help anyone in extreme need. But you are not held to be familiar with everyone, unless he asks pardon, because then he would be your friend; and if you refused him you would be hating a friend. Thus it is said (Mt 6:14-15): “If you forgive people their sins, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive them, neither will your Father forgive you your sins.” And in the Lord’s Prayer it is said (Mt 6:9): “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Reasons for forgiving
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” It has been said that you sin if you do not forgive someone who asks for pardon. It is of perfection if you recall him to yourself, although you are not held to do this. But there are many reasons why you should bring him back to yourself. The first is to preserve your own status. For different statuses have different signs, and no one should throw off the sign of his own status. The highest status of all is to be a son of God. The sign of this status is to love your enemy (Mt 5:44-45): “Love your enemies, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” For if you love your friend, this is not a sign of divine sonship, for even the Publicans and Gentiles do this, as it is said (Mt 5).
The second status is the winning of victory, something everyone naturally desires. Therefore either you should be good to the one who offended you so as to win him over to love you, and then you have won, or the other person should lead you to hate him, and then you have lost (Rm 12:21): “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The third status is gaining an advantage. In this way you acquire many friends (Rm 12:20): “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him to drink. By so doing you pile up coals of fire on his head.” Augustine says, “There is no greater incentive to love than to love first. For no one is so hard that, even if he does not want to show love, he would refuse to repay it.” For it is said (Sir 6:15): “Nothing can compare with a faithful friend.” And (Prov 16:7): “When Yahweh is pleased with a man’s ways, even his enemies will be at peace with him.”
The fourth status is that by so doing your prayers will easily be heard. Thus, on the passage (Jer 15:1) “If Moses and Samuel stood before me,” Gregory says that he made special mention of them because they prayed for their enemies. Likewise Christ said (Lk 23:34): “Father, forgive them.” And blessed Stephen, by praying for his enemies, brought a great advantage to the Church, because this converted Paul.
The fifth status is the avoidance of sin, which we should desire very much. For sometimes we sin and don’t even look for God. Then God draws us to himself by sickness or something similar (Hos 2:6): “Therefore I will hedge her way with thorns.” Paul was also treated this way (Ps 118:176): “I wandered like a lost sheep. Look for your servant, Lord.” And (Sg 1:3): “Draw me after you.” We gain this if we draw our enemy after ourselves, first by forgiving him, for it is said (Lk 6:36): “By the measure you measure out, it shall be measured back to you.” and (Lk 6:37): “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” And (Mt 5:7): “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” And there is no greater mercy than to forgive one who has offended you.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
“You 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 neighbor.
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: “You 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” [Ps 95:5]. This is the greatest and most detestable of all sins. Even now there are many who transgress this Commandment: all such as practise 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 with devils” [1 Cor 10:20].
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” [Wis 13:2]. 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 your eyes to heaven, you see the sun and the moon, and all the stars of heaven, and being deceived by error you adore and serve them, which the Lord your God created for the service of all the nations” [Deut 4:15,19]. 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” [Wis 13:2]. 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 idols)” [Eph 5:5]
Some men have erred in worshipping their ancestors. This arose from three causes.
(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” [Wis 14:15]
(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” [Wis 14:17]. Of such also are those men who love and honor other men more than God: “He who 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” [Ps 145:3]
(3) From Presumption.—Some because of their presumption made themselves be called gods; such, for example, was Nabuchodonosor (Judith, iii. 13). “Your heart is lifted up and you have said: I am God” [Ez 28:2]. 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” [Phil 3:19]. We must, therefore, avoid all these things.
Why adore one God?
“You 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” [Rom 1:23]. This is highly displeasing to God: “I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven things” [Is 42:8]. 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 you are gods” [Is 41:23]. “All things are naked and open to His eyes” [Hb 4:13]. 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 dead?” [Is 8:19].
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 You openest your hand, they shall all be filled with good” [Ps 103:28]. 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” [Hosea 2:5]. 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” [1 Kg 18:21]. 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” [Gal 4:9,10]
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 who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by one who treads under foot the Son of God, and esteems the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and outrages the Spirit of grace!” [Hb 10:28-29]. “While her husband lives, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man” [Rom 7:3]. Woe, then, to the sinner who enters the land by two ways, and who “halts between two sides” [1 Kg 18:21]
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” [Jer 16:13]. The devil is not satisfied with leading to one sin, but tries to lead on to others: “Whoever sins shall be a slave of sin” [Jn 8:34]. 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” [Super Ezech. 11]. 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” [Mt 11:30]. 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 yielded your members to serve uncleanness and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to serve justice for sanctification” [Rm 6:19]. 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” [Wis 5:7]. And again: “They have labored to commit iniquity” [Jer 9:5]
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 Muslims, 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” [Mt 22:30]. It was with this in mind that St. Peter asked: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” [Jn 6:69]
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
“You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord your 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. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your 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” [Ps 11:3]. 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” [Zech 8:17]. “You shall not live because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord” [Zech 13:3]. 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,”[Hb 4:13]. or you think that God loves a lie, whereas He hates it: “You will destroy all who speak lies” [Ps 5:7]. 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” [Hb 6:16]. 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” [Ps 93:11]. 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: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” [Dt 5:11]. And Christ forbade the taking of oaths except in case of necessity: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: You shall not swear falsely... But I say to you not to swear at all” [Mt 5:33-34]. 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” [Jm 3:8]. 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” [Mt 5:34,37].
Note well that an oath is like medicine, which is never taken continually but only in times of necessity. Hence, the Lord adds: “And what is over and above these is evil” [Mt 5:37]. “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 your mouth, and meddle not with the names of saints. For you shall not escape free from them” [Sir 23:9].
Sometimes “in vain” means sin or injustice: “O sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity?” [Ps 4:3]. 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 [Mk 6:17]. 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 perjuror.
Conditions of a lawful oath
One cannot, therefore, swear to a falsehood, or without good reason, or in any way against justice: “And you shall swear: As the Lord lives, in truth, and in judgment and in justice” [Jer 4:2].
Sometimes “vain” also means foolish: “All men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God” [Wis 13:1]. Accordingly, he who takes the name of God foolishly, by blasphemy, takes the name of God in vain: “And he who blasphemes against the name of the Lord, let him surely die” [Lev 24:16].
Taking God’s name justly
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your 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 [Dt 6:13]. They who swore otherwise violated this order: “By the name of strange gods you shall not swear” [Ex 23:13]. 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” [2 Cor 1:23]. 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” [1 Cor 6:11]. Baptism, however, does not have power except through the invocation of the Trinity: “But You, O Lord, are among us, and your name is called upon by us” [Jer 14:9].
The third purpose is the expulsion of our adversary; hence, before Baptism we renounce the devil: “Only let your name be called upon us; take away our reproach” [Is 4:1]. Therefore, 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?” [Rm 10:14]. And again: “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved” [Rm 10:13]. First of all, we confess by word of mouth that we may show forth the glory of God: “And every one who calls on My name, I have created him for My glory” [Is 43:7]. 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” [Mt 5:16]. “Through you the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles” [Rm 2:24].
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” [Prov 18:10]. “In My name they shall cast out devils” [Mk 16:17]. “There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
Lastly, it is taken in order to make our works complete. Thus says the Apostle: “All that you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” [Col 3:17]. The reason is because “our help is in the name of the Lord” [Ps 123:8]. 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 you have vowed anything to God, do not defer paying it” [Eccles 5:3]. “Vow and pay to the Lord your God; all you round about Him bring presents” [Ps 75:12]. “For an unfaithful and foolish promise displeases Him” [Eccles 5:3].
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
“Remember to 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: “You shall not have strange gods before Me.” In the Second Commandment we are told to reverence God by word: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” The Third commands us to reverence God by act. It is: “Remember that you 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 commandment
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” [2 Pet 3:3-5]. 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 you 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 is worth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” [Gal 6:15]. 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” [Rm 6:4-5]. And thus, because the Resurrection took place on Sunday, we celebrate that day, even as the Jews observed the Sabbath on account of the first creation.
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 sepulchre, and thus it is said: “Moreover My flesh also shall rest in hope” [Ps 15:9]. “Nor will You let your holy one see corruption” [Ps 15:10]. 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 sepulchre. 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 on that day God shall give you rest from your labor, from your vexation, and from the hard bondage, to which you had been subjugated” [Is 14:3]. “My people shall dwell in a peaceful land, in secure accommodation, and in quiet places of rest” [Is 32:18].
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” [Mt 11:28-30]
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” [Sir 51:35]. 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” [Wis 9:15]. 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” [Ps 33:2]. And again: “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thes 5:17]. 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 You” [Ps 118:164]. 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 you delight in the Lord” [Is 58:13-14]. Again: “Then shall you abound in delights of the Almighty, and shall lift up your face to God” [Job 22:26]. 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 this day.
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 your man-servant and your 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” [1 Cor 6:11]. (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 divine service.
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 any work; sanctify the Sabbath day” [Jer 17:22]. And so also it is said in the Law: “You shall do no servile work therein” [Lev 23:25]. 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 work.
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 Sabbath [Jn 7:22-23].
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” [Jer 18:21]. This weight and burden on the soul is sin: “My iniquities as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me” [Ps 37:5]. Now, sin is a servile work because “whoever commits sin is the servant of sin” [Jn 8:34]. Therefore, when it is said, “You shall do no servile work therein,”[Lev 3:25]. 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 to me” [Is 1:13]
Another thing to avoid on the Sabbath is idleness: “For idleness has taught much evil” [Sir 33:29]. St. Jerome says: “Always do some good work, and the devil will always find you occupied” [Ep. ad Rusticum]. 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” [Ps 98:4 Vulgate], 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 [1 Mac 2:31-38]. The same thing happens to many who are idle on the feast days: “The enemies have seen her, and have mocked at her Sabbaths” [Lam 1:7]. But all such should do as those Jews did, of whom it is said: “Whoever shall come up against us to fight on the Sabbath day, we will fight against him” [1 Mac 2:41]
Do what on the Sabbath?
“Remember to 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 (18) 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 Yours; and we have given You what we received from your hand” [1 Chron 29:14]. We should offer, first of all, our soul to God, being sorry for our sins: “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit” [Ps 50:19]; and also pray for His blessings: “Let my prayer be directed as incense in your sight” [Ps 140:2]. 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”[Rm 12:1], and also by praising God: “The sacrifice of praise shall honor Me” [Ps 49:23]. 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” [Hb 13:16]. And this alms ought to be more than on other days because the Sabbath is a day of common joys: “Send portions to those who have not prepared for themselves, because it is the holy day of the Lord” [Neh 8:10].
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” [Acts 13:27]. 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 who is of God, hears the words of God” [Jn 8:47]. We likewise ought to speak with profit to others: “Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but what is good for sanctification” [Eph 4:29]. 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, says the Lord, and as a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” [Jer 23:29]. The opposite effect is had on those, even the perfect, who neither speak nor hear profitable things: “Evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake, you just, and do no sin” [1 Cor 15:33]. “Your words have I hidden in my heart” [Ps 118:11]. God’s word enlightens the ignorant: “Your word is a lamp to my feet” [Ps 118:105]. It inflames the lukewarm: “The word of the Lord inflamed him” [Ps 114:19]
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” [Ps 33:9], 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 for me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge” [Ps 30:3]. “There remains therefore a day of rest for the people of God. For he who has entered into his rest has also rested from his works, as God did from His” [Hb 4:9-10]. When I go into my house, I shall repose myself with her” (i.e., Wisdom) [Wis 8:16].
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” [Is 57:20]. The second rest is from the passions of the flesh, because “the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh” [Gal 5:17]. The third is rest from the occupations of the world: “Martha, Martha, you art careful and art troubled about many things” [Lk 10:41].
And then after all these things the soul rests peacefully in God: “If you call the Sabbath delightful... then shall you delight in the Lord” [Is 58:13-14]. 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 went off and sold all that he had and bought that field” [Mt 13:44-46]. 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” [Ps 131:14]. And to this rest may the Lord bring us all!
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
“Honor your father and your mother, that you may be long-lived upon the land which the Lord your God will give you”
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” [1 Jn 3]. 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 does not take care of his own, especially of those of his house, he has denied the faith” [1 Tim 5:8]. 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 your father and your 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 [Ethics V]. Parents, indeed, give their children three things. The first is that they brought them into being: “Honor your father, and forget not the groanings of your mother; remember that through them you were born” [Sir 7:29-30]. Secondly, they furnished nourishment and the support necessary for life. For a child comes naked into the world, as Job relates (1:24), but he is provided for by his parents. The third is instruction: “We have had fathers of our flesh for instructors” [Hb 12:9]. “Do you have children? Instruct them” [Sir 7:25].
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” [Prov 22:6]. And again: “It is good for a man when he has borne the yoke from his youth” [Lam 3:27]. Now, the instruction which Tobias gave his son (Tob 4) 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 who fears the Lord honors his parents, and will serve them as his masters that brought him into the world. Honor your father in work and word and all patience, that a blessing may come upon you from him” [Sir 3:10]. 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” [Sir 3:13].
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 your father, and grieve him not in his life. And if his understanding fail, have patience with him; and do not despise him when you are in your strength... Of what an evil fame is he who forsakes his father! And he is cursed of God who angers his mother” [Sir 3:14,15]. 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” [Epist. II].
We must obey our parents, for they have instructed us. “Children, obey your parents in all things” [Col 3:20]. 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 [Ad Heliod]: “If any man hate not his father and mother... he cannot be My disciple” [Lk 14:26]. This is to say that God is in the truest sense our Father: “Is not He your Father who possessed you, made you and created you?” [Deut 32:6].
Rewards for keeping this commandment
“Honor your father and your mother.” Among all the Commandments, this one only has the additional words: “that you 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 your father... that a blessing may come upon you from God, and His blessing may remain in the latter end” [Sir 3:9-10]. The very opposite comes upon those who dishonor their parents; indeed, they are cursed in the law by God [Deut 27:16]. It is also written: “He who is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in what is greater” [Lk 16:10]. 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 you may be long-lived upon the land.” For “he who honors his father shall enjoy a long life” [Sir 3:7]. 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” [Wis 4:13]. 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 his father and despises the labor of his mother in bearing him, let the ravens pick it out, and the young eagles eat it” [Prov 30:17]. 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: “Do not give to a son or wife, brother or friend, power over you while you live; and do not give your estate to another, lest you repent” [Sir 33:20].
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 who honors his father shall have joy in his own children” [Sir 3:6]. Again: “With what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again” [Mt 7:2]. The fourth reward is a praiseworthy reputation: “For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father” [Sir 3:13]. And again: “Of what an evil fame is he who forsakes his father?” [Sir 3:18]. A fifth reward is riches: “The father’s blessing establishes the houses of his children, but the mother’s curse roots up the foundation” [Sir 3:11].
Meanings of “father”
“Honor your father and your 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” [1 Cor 4:15]. And again: “Let us now praise men of renown and our fathers in their generation” [Sir 44:1]. 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,... follow their faith, considering the end of their conversation” [Hb 13:7]. And again: “He who hears you, hears Me; and he who despises you, despises Me” [Lk 10:16]. We honor them by showing them obedience: “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them” [Hb 13:17]. And also by paying them tithes: “Honor the Lord with your substance, and give Him of the first of your fruits” [Prov 3:9].
Rulers and kings are called fathers: “Father, if the prophet had commanded you do some great thing, surely you would have done it” [2 Kg 5:13]. 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” [Rm 13:1]. 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” [Rom 13:7]. 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” [Rom 13:41]. And again: “My son, fear the Lord and the king” [Prov 24:21].
Our benefactors also are called fathers: “Be merciful to the fatherless as a father” [Sir 4:10]. He, too, is like a father [who gives his bond]. of whom it is said: “A good man will be surety for his neighbor, but a man who has lost his sense of shame will fail him” [Sir 29:14]. 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” [Wis 16:29]. Old men also are called fathers: “Ask your father, and he will declare to you; your elders and they will tell you” [Deut 32:7]. And again: “Rise up before the grey head, and honor the person of the aged man” [Lev 19:32]. “In the company of great men take not upon you to speak; and when the ancients are present, do not speak much” [Sir 32:13]. “Hear in silence, and for your reverence good grace shall come to you” [Sir 32:9]. 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 who despises you, despises Me” [Lk 10:16].
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
“You 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: “You 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” [Gen 9:3]. The Philosopher says that hunting is like a just war [Politics I]. And St. Paul says: “Whatsoever is sold in the meat market, eat; asking no questions for conscience’ sake” [1 Cor 10:25]. Therefore, the sense of the Commandment is: “You 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” [Deut 32:39]. 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” [Prov 8:15]. And again: “For if you do what is evil, fear; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister” [Rm 13:14]. To Moses also it was said: “Wizards you shall not allow to live” [Ex 22:18]. 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” [Rm 6:23]. Neither does His minister sin in inflicting that punishment. The sense, therefore, of “You 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 [I, 27]. But he also explains this in the words: “He who kills himself, certainly kills a man” [ibid. 13]. 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 Spirit, as was the case of Samson. Therefore, “you shall not kill.”
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” [Is 1:15]. This is not only against charity, which tells us to love our neighbor as ourself: “No murderer has eternal life abiding in himself” [Jn 3:15]. But also it is against nature, for “every beast loves its like” [Sir 13:19]. And so it is said: “He who strikes a man with a will to kill him, shall be put to death” [Ex 21:12]. 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 [De animal. IV].
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” [Ps 56:5]. Thirdly, by lending aid, as it is written: “My son, do not go with them... for their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed blood” [Prov 1:15-16]. Fourthly, by consent: “They are worthy of death, not only they who do such things, but they also who consent to those who do them” [Rm 1:32]. Lastly, one kills another by giving a partial consent when the act could be completely prevented: “Deliver those who are led to death” [Prov 24:11]; 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” [Jn 8:44], 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 commiting suicide.
The sin of anger
Why We Are Forbidden to Be Angry.—In the Gospel of St. Matthew (ch. 5) 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” [2 Cor 9:6]. The Old Law promised a temporary and earthly reward: “If you are willing and will listen to Me, you shall eat the good things of the land” [Is 1:19]. 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: You shall not kill.... But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment” [Mt 5:21-22]. By this is meant the penalty which the law prescribes: “If any man kills his neighbor on set purpose, and by lying in wait for him; you shall take him away from My altar, that he may die” [Ex 21:14].
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” [James 1:19]. 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” [Micah 7:9]
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. “Whoever 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?” [Prov 27:4]. And again: “A stone is heavy, and sand weighty, but the anger of a fool is heavier than both” [Prov 27:3]
One should also take care that one does not remain angry over long: “Be ye angry, and sin not” [Ps 4:5]. And: “Let not the sun go down upon your anger” [Eph 4:26]. The reason for this is given in the Gospel by Our Lord: “Be at agreement with your adversary betimes whilst you art in the way with him; lest perhaps the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Amen, I say to you, you shall not go out from hence till you repay the last penny” [Mt 5:25-26].
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: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” [1 Jn 3:15]. 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” [Prov 15:18]. “Cursed be their fury, because it was stubborn, and their wrath, because it was cruel” [Gen 49:7].
We must take care lest our wrath explode in angry words: “A fool immediately shows his anger” [Prov 12:16]. 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 whoever says to his brother: ‘You fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire” [Mt 5:22]. And He has reference to the latter in the words: “And he who shall say: ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council” [ibid.]. Moreover: “A mild answer breaks wrath, but a harsh word stirs up fury” [Prov 15:1].
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 does not work the justice of God” [James 1:20]. 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 has no mercy, nor fury when it breaks forth” [Prov 27:4]. And: “In their fury they slew a man” [Gen 49:6].
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.
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
“You 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” [Gen 2:24]. 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 joined.
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 who leaves her husband,... first, is unfaithful to the law of the Most High; and secondly, she has offended against her husband; thirdly, she has fornicated in adultery, and hath gotten her children of another man” [Sir 23:32-33].
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” [Mt 19:6]. 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 you and the wife of your youth whom you have despised” [Mal 2:14]. 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 does not have power over her own body: but the husband” [1 Cor 7:4]. 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 has forgotten the covenant of her God” [Prov 2:17-18].
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 does not have power over his own body, but the wife” [1 Cor 7:4]. 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: “You husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the female as to the weaker vessel” [1 Pt 3:7]. 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 ought.
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” [Hb 13:4]. And: “Do not err: neither fornicators... nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with men shall possess the kingdom of God” [1 Cor 6:9]. 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, “You 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” [Hb 13:4]. 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 who is an adulterer has no sense, for the folly of his heart shall destroy his own soul” [Prov 6:32]. 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 (20:10) and Deuteronomy (22:22). 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 riotiously” [Lk 15:13]. “Do not give your soul to harlots, lest you destroy your inheritance” [Sir 9:6]. 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” [Wis 3:16-17]. And again: “Otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy” [1 Cor 7:14]. Thus, they are never honored in the Church, but if they are clerics their dishonor may go without shame. Fifthly, these sins take away one’s honor, and this especially is applicable to women: “Every woman who is a harlot shall be trodden upon as dung in the way” [Sir 9:10]. And of the husband it is said: “He gathers to himself shame and dishonor, and his reproach shall not be blotted out” [Prov 6:33].
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 became like senseless beasts that perish” [Ps 48:21].
THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
“You Shall Not Steal.”
The Lord specifically forbids injury to our neighbor in the Commandments. Thus, “You shall not kill” forbids us to injure our neighbor in his own person; “You shall not commit adultery” forbids injury to the person to whom one is bound in marriage; and now the Commandment, “You 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” [Mt 24:43]. This is an act wholly blameworthy because it is a form of treachery. “Confusion... is upon the thief” [Sir 5:17].
Secondly, by taking with violence, and this is an even greater injury: “They have violently robbed the fatherless” [Job 24:9]. 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” [Zeph 3:3]. They act contrary to God’s will who wishes a rule according to justice: “By Me kings reign and lawgivers decree just things” [Prov 8:15]. Sometimes they do such things stealthily and sometimes with violence: “Your princes are faithless companions of thieves, they all love bribes, they run after rewards” [Is 1:23]. At times they steal by enacting laws and enforcing them for profit only: “Woe to those who make wicked laws” [Is 10:1]. And St. Augustine says that every wrongful usurpation is theft when he asks: “What are thrones but forms of thievery?”[City of God IV, 4].
Thirdly, theft is committed by not paying wages that are due: “The wages of him whom you have hired shall not abide by you until the morning” [Lev 19:13]. 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” [Rm 13:7]. 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: “You shall not have divers weights in your bag, a greater and a less” [Deut 25:13]. And again: “Do no unjust thing in judgment, in rule, in weight, or in measure” [Lev 19:35-36]. All this is directed against the keepers of wine-shops who mix water with the wine. Usury is also forbidden: “Who shall dwell in your tabernacle, or who shall rest in your holy hill?... He who has not put his money out to usury” [Ps 14:1,5]. 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 swallowed, he shall vomit up, and God shall draw them out of his belly” [Job 20:15], 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 who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold but climbs up another way is a thief and a robber” [Jn 10:1]. Therefore, they who commit simony are thieves.
Why stealing must be avoided
“You 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 who defrauds them of it is a man of blood” [Sir 24:25]. And again: “He who sheds blood and he who defrauds the laborer of his hire are brothers” [Sir 24:27].
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 who heaps together what is not his own; for how long will he load himself with thick clay?” [Hab 2:6 Vulgate; “clay” should be “debts”]. 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” [Prov 10:2]. Wealth can indeed be useful for almsgiving and offering of sacrifices, for “the ransom of a man’s life are his riches” [Prov 13:8]. But it is said of stolen goods: “I am the Lord that love judgment, and hate robbery in a holocaust” [Is 41:8]. And again: “He who offers sacrifice of the goods of the poor is as one who sacrifices the son in the presence of his father” [Sir 34:24].
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” [Job 15:34]. 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 restitution.
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
“You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against your Neighbor.”
The Lord has forbidden anyone to injure his neighbor by deed; now he forbids us to injure him by word. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This may occur in two ways, either in a court of justice or in ordinary conversation.
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: “You shall not be a detractor nor a whisperer among the people” [Lev 19:16]. And note well that it is not only wrong to speak falsely, but also to conceal the truth: “If your brother offends you, go and rebuke him” [Mt 18:15]. The second person is the witness who testifies by lying: “A false witness shall not be unpunished” [Prov 25:18]. 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.... You shall not pity him, but shall require life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” [Deut 19:18-21]. And again: “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a dart and a sword and a sharp arrow” [Prov 25:18]. The third person is the judge who sins by giving an unjust sentence: “You shall not... judge unjustly. Respect not the person of the poor, nor honor the countenance of the mighty. But judge your neighbor according to justice” [Lev 19:15].
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” [Rm 1:30]. “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” [Prov 22:1]. But detractors take away this good name: “If a serpent bite in silence, he is no better that backbites secretly” [Eccles 10:11]. 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 your ears with thorns, do not listen to a wicked tongue, and make doors and bars for your mouth” [Sir 28:28]. 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 does a sad countenance a backbiting tongue” [Prov 25:23].
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... one who sows discord among brethren” [Prov 6:16,19]. Fourthly, those who speak honied words, the flatterers: “The sinner is praised in the desires of his soul, and the unjust man is blessed” [Ps 9:24]. And again: “O My people, they who call you blessed deceive you” [Is 3:12].
Special effects of telling lies
The prohibition of this Commandment includes every form of falsehood: “Refuse to utter any lie; for the habit of lying serves no good” [Sir 7:14]. 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 your accent betrays you” [Mt 26:73]. 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” [Jn 8:44]. Thus, when the devil said, “No, certainly you shall not die,” [Gen 3:4], 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. “Therefore put away lying, speak the truth, every man with his neighbor; for we are members one of another” [Eph 4:25].
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 what is false?” [Sir 24:4].
The fourth reason is because a liar kills his soul, for “the mouth that lies kills the soul” [Wis 1:11]. And again: “You will destroy all who speak lies” [Ps 5:7]. 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” [2 Pet 2:1]. Then there are those who lie to wrong their neighbor: “Do not lie to one another” [Col 3:9]. 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.” “Does God have any need of your lie?” [Job 13:7]. And again: “There is one who humbles himself wickedly, and his interior is full of deceit; and there is one who humbles himself exceedingly with a great lowness” [Sir 19:25 Vulgate].
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 your ignorance” [Sir 4:30]. 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” [Is 28:15]. And again: “He who trusts in lies feeds the winds” [Prov 10:4]
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 your own person, nor against your soul a lie” [Eccles 4:26]. 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” [Wis 4:12].
THE NINTH (TENTH) COMMANDMENT
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.”
[St. Thomas places the Tenth Commandment before the Ninth. The Tenth Commandment is wider in extension than the Ninth, which is specific.]
“You shall not covet your 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. “You are the God of my heart” [Ps 72:26]. And again: “Man sees those things that appear, but the Lord sees the heart” [1 Sam 16:7]. 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, “You shall not covet,” mean to include not only the taking by act, but also the intention to take. Therefore, it says: “You shall not even covet your 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” [Eccles 5:9]. But the desires of man are never satisfied, because the heart of man is made for God. Thus, says St. Augustine: “You hast made us for You, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You” [Conf. I]. Nothing, therefore, less than God can satisfy the human heart: “He satisfies your desire with good things” [Ps 102:5].
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” [Eccles 5:11]. “For where your treasure is, there is your heart also” [Mt 6:21]. It was for this, says St. Gregory, that Christ compared riches to thorns [Lk 8:14].
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 fitting for a covetous man and a niggard” [Sir 14:3]. The fourth reason is that it destroys the equality of justice: “Neither shall you take bribes, which even blind the wise, and pervert the words of the just” [Ex 23:8]. And again: “He who loves gold shall not be justified” [Sir 31:5]. 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 your dear brother for the sake of gold” [Sir 7:20]. And just as “No man can serve two masters,” so neither can he serve “God and mammon” [Mt 6:24].
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” [1 Tim 6:9-10]. 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.
THE TENTH (NINTH) COMMANDMENT
“You Shall Not Covet your 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” [1 Jn 2:16]. Now, all that is desirable is included in these three, two of which are forbidden by the precept: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” Here “house,” signifying height, refers to avarice, for “glory and wealth shall be in his house” [Ps 111:3]. 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: “You shall not covet your 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 nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” [Rm 7:18].
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: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” [Rm 6:12]. Accordingly the Lord says: “Whoever looks on a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart” [Mt 5:28]. For with God the intention is taken for the act.
Secondly, sin rules in the flesh when the concupiscence of our heart is expressed in words: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” [Mt 12:34]. And again: “Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth” [Eph 4:29]. 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 to greater and greater iniquity” [Rm 6:19]. 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: “Do not gaze not upon a maiden lest her beauty be a stumbling-block to you... Do not look around you in the ways of the city, nor wander up and down in its streets. Turn away your face from a woman dressed up, and do not gaze upon another’s beauty. For many have perished by the beauty of a woman, whereby lust is enkindled as a fire” [Sir 9:5-9]. And again: “Can a man hide fire in his bosom, and his garments not burn?” [Prov 6:27]. And thus Lot was commanded to flee, “neither stay you in all the country about” [Gen 19:17].
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” [1 Cor 9:27].
The third way is perseverance in prayer: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it” [Ps 126:1]. And also: “I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it” [Wis 8:21]. Again: “This kind is not cast out save by prayer and fasting” [Mt 17:20]. 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” [Sir 23:29]. Again: “This was the iniquity of Sodom your sister, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of her” [Ez 16:49]. 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” [Ad Paulin.].
SUMMARY OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
These are the ten precepts to which Our Lord referred when He said: “If you would enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). 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: “You shall not have strange gods”; (2) he must give God all honor. And so it is commanded: “You shall not take the name of God in vain”; (3) he must freely take his rest in God. Hence: “Remember that you keep holy the Sabbath day.”
But to love God worthily, one must first of all love one’s neighbor. And so: “Honor your father and mother.” Then, one must avoid doing harm to one’s neighbor in act. “You shall not kill” refers to our neighbor’s person; “You shall not commit adultery” refers to the person united in marriage to our neighbor; “You shall not steal” refers to our neighbor’s external goods. We must also avoid injury to our neighbor both by word, “You shall not bear false witness,” and by thought, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”