You shall not kill.
Of these five commandments - namely, against murder, adultery, theft, slander and covetousness, it almost goes without saying that their very negativeness in form constitutes the strongest way of stating a positive duty. From a proper consideration of these commandments all possible manifestations of brotherliness will flow. They show the spirit we should cherish towards our neighbours; those who equally with ourselves are the objects of Divine providence and mercy. They show what we are bound to give and what we have equally a right to expect. Pondering the serious and injurious actions here indicated we note -
I. THE GREAT HARM WHICH MEN CAN DO TO ONE ANOTHER, A man maliciously disposed, sensual, reckless, unscrupulously selfish, has thus the extent of his power set before him. That life which man has no power to give, he can take away at a single blow. A man in the gratification of his sensual passions is able to destroy domestic peace, gladness and purity. Property, which may be the fruit and reward of long industry, is swept away by those who will not work for themselves as long as they can get others to work for them. Reputation may be taken away by adroit and plausible slander. A man's whole position may be made uncertain by those who on the right hand and the left look enviously on that position and wish to make it their own. It is when these possibilities are borne in mind that we feel how true it is that even the best guarded of earthly store-houses is nevertheless the one where the thief can break through and steal. Industry, temperance, caution, vigilance, will guard many points of human life, but what avails, if even a single one is left that cannot be called invulnerable? If, then, our fellow men are so much in our power, how it becomes us to quell the very first outbreaks of all that is malicious, envious, selfish and sensual! ]f we allow the evil in us to grow, we know not what evil it may inflict on the innocent and happy.
II. But if these commandments show a dark and menacing side in our relations to others, they equally show a bright one. THERE IS GREAT GOOD WHICH WE CAN DO TO ONE ANOTHER. The man who has power to kill, has, on the other hand, power to do much in the way of preserving, cherishing and invigorating the lives of others. Instead of pulling down others by a degrading companionship to the level of his own impure heart, he can do something by seeking purity himself to draw others toward a like quest. Instead of stealing, he will work not only to sustain himself, but that from his superfluity, if possible, he may give to those who have not. He who has spoken ill of men will find it just as easy to speak well, if only he is so disposed. That tongue with which the renewed heart blesses God will also be constrained to say what is kind, commendatory and helpful to others. Covetousness will give place to a gracious and generous disposition that constantly takes for its motto, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is only when we are doing our neighbours all the good we can, that we may be really sure we are carrying out the commandments of God. There are only the two ways, the forbidden and the commanded one; and if we are not treading heartily and resolutely in the commanded one, it follows as a matter of course that we are in the forbidden one.
III. It is something to remember that THE GOOD WE CAN DO BY KEEPING THESE COMMANDMENTS IS GREATER THAN THE ILL WE CAN DO BY BREAKING THEM. God has put us largely in the power of one another, that thereby we might have the happiness coming from loving service and mutual association in giving and receiving; but, at the same time, he has made us so that while we are very powerful as co-workers with him, yet even our greatest efforts are comparatively powerless against those who put themselves under his protection. Those injuring others do indeed inflict a great injury from a certain point of view; but they terribly deceive themselves in thinking that the injury is such as can never be compensated for. Christ has given to his people the word of comfort against all assault and spoliation from evil men: - "Fear not them that kill the body." The priceless treasures, constituting the essence of every human life, are not without a storehouse because the earthly storehouse proves insufficient. The truth seems to be that man has it in his power to do more good than he can conceive, more good certainly than he ever attempts. He has not the faith to believe that incessant and plenteous sowing will bring good results, to be manifested in that day when all secrets are brought fully to light. And so on the other hand, the malicious man exaggerates his power. He thinks he has done more than he possibly can do. Good is left undone for want of faith, and evil is done through too much faith. Many an evil act would never have been committed if the doer had only known how his evil, in the wondrous reach of God's providence, would be turned to good. And so the evil-doer, the man of many crimes, if perchance the hour comes to him when he reflects in self-condemnation in the past, and says in his heart that all repentance is vain, should yet find hope and illumination as he considers how the evil done to others is an evil which God can neutralise, which he can even transmute into good. He who hurts his neigh-bout and rejoices over the mischief, may find, when it is too late, that the only real evil has been to himself, because he has persisted in an impenitent heart. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not kill.