You shall not murder.
I. PARENTS STAND TO THEIR CHILDREN IN THE RELATION OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DIVINE. They represent God as the source of their offspring's life; they have a share of God's authority, and ought to exercise it; but much more ought they to represent God to their children in his unwearied beneficence, his tender care, his exalted rectitude, his forgiving love. With what intelligence or comfort can a child be taught to think of a Father in heaven, if its earthly parent is wanting in dignity, kindness, truthfulness, or integrity? How many fathers are thus spoiling for their children their whole conceptions of God! And with what anxiety and care should earthly parents study to leave such an impression on their children's minds as will make the idea of God delightful and consolatory to them, while inspiring them towards him with proper feelings of reverence!
II. PARENTS ON THIS ACCOUNT ARE TO BE HONORED BY THEIR CHILDREN. They are to be regarded with affection, treated with respect and deference, promptly and cheerfully obeyed, and, where needful, liberally supported (Matthew 15:4-7; 1 Timothy 5:8). Even the failure of parents to do all their duty to their children does not exonerate the children from the obligation of treating them with respect. Young people need to be reminded that failure in this duty is peculiarly offensive to God. We are told that when Tiyo Soga visited this country, a particular thing which astonished him was the deficiency in respect for parents compared with the obedience which prevailed in the wilds of Kaffraria.
III. THE HONORING OF PARENTS HAS ATTACHED TO IT A PECULIAR PROMISE. Length of days and prosperity. The promise is primarily national, but it has fulfillments in individuals.
1. A special blessing rests on the man who shows his parents due respect. That has often been remarked.
2. There is also a natural connection between the virtue and the promise. Respect for parents is the root at once of reverence for God and of respect for the rights of others. Hence the place of the commandment in the Decalogue. It engenders self-respect, and forms the will to habits of obedience. It is favorable to the stability, good order, and general morals of society. It therefore conduces to health, longevity, and a diffusion of the comforts of life, furnishing alike the outward and the inward conditions necessary for success. - J.O.
I. THE DISPOSITION OF HEART it enjoins us to bear one towards another.
Thou shalt not kill.
1. It is a sin against ourselves, and against that natural principle of self-love and self-preservation which is implanted in us, and which is the rule of our love to ethers, which renders the sin more heinous, because it is a plain contradiction to the law of nature.
2. This is a crime against others, as well as against ourselves. For the community hath a share in us, and therefore when we destroy ourselves we injure the public. And then more especially we wrong the family which hath an interest in us, and of whom we are a part.
3. This is a crime against God as well as against ourselves and our brethren. He is a self-slayer, and an enemy of the workmanship of God. And this workmanship is no less than the image of God, for in the image of God made He man (Genesis 9:6). Further, this is an offence against God because it is a distrust of His providence and His management of future events. Vibius Virius, a Roman senator, prevailed with twenty-four senators to drink poison with him, before Hannibal entered the city of Capua, and so they died unanimously with resentments of their country's deplorable condition, but were not so religious as to confide in the Divine Providence. Cato fell on his sword and slew himself, that he might not fall into the hands of Julius Caesar. Demosthenes drank poison and ended his life that he might be sure not to be apprehended. Cleopatra killed herself that she might not be taken by Augustus. And others have despatched themselves on like grounds, namely, because they were uncertain of the future event of things, and they had not faith enough to rely on Him who governs the world.
4. This must be voted to be a very heinous offence if we respect the source and principles from whence it is derived. As generally, from fear and cowardice, which, possessing the minds of some men, have caused them to make all the haste they could out of the world, lest they should be overtaken with the miseries that attend it. Even the ancient Roman courage was stained with this pusillanimity. This argues a poor impotent spirit. But on the contrary, it is truly brave to bear calamity contentedly. Another ill principle from whence self-murder proceeds is pride. Cowardice and pride are often coupled together. A haughty and a dastardly spirit meet in the same persons. Hannibal, beaten by Scipio, scorned to see himself in disgrace, and poisoned himself, Mark Antony and Cleopatra being conquered by Augustus, scorned to survive their greatness, and to submit to the conqueror. Yea, it is probable that Care slew himself in an arrogant humour, being loth to truckle to him who had vanquished Pompey. Another source of this wicked practice is impatience and discontent. When these are deeply rooted in men's minds they sometimes put them upon this fatal enterprise. Thus Pilate, turned out of his place, and fallen under the emperor's displeasure, abandoned the world. Themistocles, the famous and renowned captain of the Athenians, being banished by them, and brought into disgrace and poverty, sought for a redress of his melancholy by poison. Porcia, when she heard of the untimely death of her husband Brutus, like Cato's own daughter, put an end to her life by swallowing burning coals. And discontent is the general and most common spring of this evil I am speaking of. Lastly, when discontent and impatience ripen into despair, the persons thus possessed do often fling themselves out of the world, and will not be persuaded to stay here any longer. Which was the case with Saul, Ahithophel, and Judas. And now, after all these brief hints, I question not but it will be freely granted that self-murder is a very heinous crime, and therefore deservedly forbidden. If you ask whether we must wholly despair of the salvation of those that kill themselves, I answer, If this violence done to themselves proceed merely from any of the causes before mentioned, I conceive we cannot entertain any hope of such persons. And my reason is, because this is their voluntary act, and in itself vicious, and they have not time to repent of it when it is done. But we must not judge so severely concerning those whose violent laying hands on themselves is the immediate effect of a distempered body and a disordered mind. It is most probable that no man shall answer for any miscarriage that is wholly caused by the violence of a disease or the distraction of the brain. The reason of my assertion is this, because whatever fault may be committed in such a case, it is not a man's free and voluntary act, and consequently is not his own, and therefore shall not be charged upon him. But, secondly, this commandment respects not only ourselves, but others, and those chiefly; wherein not only the gross act, but all inclinations towards it, are forbidden; as hatred: for "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15). That is, he is a murderer in his heart, which God chiefly looks after. And all envy; for this passion lies not idle, but will, if possible, procure mischief to those that it is fixed upon: whence envy and murder are joined together in Romans 1:29. And all undue anger and wrath are here forbidden, as Christ Himself hath interpreted this commandment (Matthew 5:21, 22). Anger is a degree of murder in the interpretation of the Gospel. And in itself it is a disposition to it, for wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous (Proverbs 27:4). Here also might be mentioned the wishing of other men's death, or the contriving of it, which, without doubt, are condemned by this commandment Joseph's brethren intended his death, for "they conspired against him to slay him" (Genesis 37:18). There is not only the murder of the heart, but of the tongue. For we find that reproachful words are referred by our Saviour Himself to this commandment of not killing (Matthew 5:21, 22). He that takes away his brother's good name is in the next capacity to rob him of his life. He that maliciously uses his tongue against his neighbour is disposed to use a weapon against him when he finds opportunity. Aristophanes, who scoffed at Socrates in his plays, was one of the conspirators against his life. Next, I am to mention those actions which are disallowed by this commandment. As, first, the hurting of the bodies of others, though their life be not concerned. The impairing of the bodily strength and health of any person is here forbid. So is all oppression, extortion, and persecution. "Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves, ravening the prey, to shed blood, to get dishonest gains" (Ezekiel 22:27); where it is evident that tyranny and oppression in rulers are shedding of blood, and are a kind of murder. We are forbid also to countenance any persons in their attempts of taking away a man's life. He that any way abets this action, he that connives at it, is guilty of it. Too much severity in taking away a man's life is disallowed by this commandment. So we read of a French soldier, who was the first man that mounted the bulwark of a besieged fort, whereupon ensued the gaining of it. But the general first knighted him, and then hanged him within an hour after because he did it without command. Judges and jurors, and persons concerned in courts of judicature, where capital causes are tried, may soon be found offenders if they be not very cautious here. For if they be any ways assisting towards the condemning of the innocent, they incur the imputation of bloodshed. The like do physicians if they carelessly administer their medicines, and value not the lives of men; if they rashly make experiments on their patients, and are perfidious in their art. This I will add, in the next place, that to engage in an unjust war is forbidden in this commandment, for it is unlawful killing. For here men are hired to make a slaughter of others; killing is a trade and an art. Fighting of duels falls under the prohibition of killing. Lastly, here is forbidden the actual taking away of another's life, and that unlawfully. For every taking away another man's life is not unlawful, and therefore is not murder. Here, then, it is necessary that I distinctly show in what cases the actual taking away of a man's life is unlawful, and in what cases it is lawful. First, then, under the old dispensation, when God was pleased in an immediate way to stir persons up to effect what He intended should be brought to pass, it was lawful for a man to take away another's life, if he had an extraordinary impulse from God to do it. Thus Moses killed the Egyptian, Phineas slew Zimri and Coshi, Samson destroyed the Philistines, Elias put to death Baal's priests, Ehud stabbed Eglon, Jehoiada killed the she-tyrant Athaliah. These are rare and extraordinary examples, and were founded on the Jus Zelotarum, whereby it was lawful for private men immediately stirred up by God to punish open wickedness even with death., This right of zealots is not now allowable; nor was it lawfully practised always by the Jews, and it grew at last to notorious villainy, as in the Jewish war. But I am to speak of what is lawful under the settled dispensation of the Gospel, and therefore — Secondly, I assert that it is lawful to take away a man's life in the way of public justice on notorious criminals. This is to be done by appointed magistrates and officers, and as they are such, for these have authority and power to punish malefactors even with death (Genesis 9:6; Genesis 26:11; Deuteronomy 17:6, 7; Joshua 1:18; Romans 13:4; Acts 25:11). Thirdly, in a lawful and just war it is no sin to take away a man's life. We may kill our enemies in a just cause, because we execute justice in so doing. Fourthly, we may take away another man's life in case of necessary defence, that is, when we are constrained to it in defence of our own lives. Fifthly, this may be done in the necessary maintaining of public justice, and the conservation of public peace. Sixthly, if a man kills a person by chance or misadventure, this is not to be reckoned a sinful and unlawful act. But excepting these limitations, there is no taking away a man's life but it is to be reckoned unlawful and downright murder. For it is the wilful killing of an innocent person, and that is the thing that is here forbidden. I am in the next place to assign the reasons of the prohibition, or to show what are the arguments against this killing which is here forbidden,. They are these two: the sinfulness, and the danger of it.
1. The shedding of man's blood is forbid because of the sinfulness, the absolute depravity and enormity of it. We find it is that which our nature recoils at most of all. The very name of murder strikes a terror into the hearts of all that are not become wholly insensible. The wild and savage brutes have a courtesy for those of their own species, and seldom prey upon and devour one another. It must therefore be very repugnant to human nature to shed the blood of mankind. Besides, a man's life is the most precious thing he is owner of, and is the foundation of all other blessings and enjoyments: wherefore all is parted with for this, and all hardships are undergone to secure this. All the laws and constitutions of magistrates aim at the preservation of this, either directly or indirectly. I proceed next to the danger and punishment which attend this sin, which is another reason of the prohibition. All sin is troublesome and penal, but this of murder especially. It lies heavy on the conscience. It hath been known that after the commission of this horrid act, the guilty parties have not been able to enjoy a minute's rest, but have shifted from one place to another, and have rather chosen to be their own executioners than to live to be their own tormentors. And as this sin is most clamorous in the sinner's own breast, so the voice of it is heard the soonest in heaven. "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth to Me from the ground," saith God to Cain, that first murderer (Genesis 4:10). All sins speak, but this crieth. And that we may avoid this horrid crime, it will be necessary to observe these brief rules.
1. We are to beware of covetousness, and all greedy desire of wealth, and riches, and worldly possessions. Naboth's vineyard was coveted by Ahab, and this put him on contriving Naboth's death.
2. Let us curb ambitious thoughts and a desire of being great, lest these administer to bloodshed. Abimelech killed three score and ten of his brethren to get to the throne. The next direction is, that we put a check to lust and lewdness; for these have zoo often proved the forerunners of bloodshed. Uriah's wife is unlawfully desired by David, therefore he must be taken out of the way, that David's lust may be satisfied. Herod, to gratify a lewd woman, struck off the Baptist's head. Also, be careful to avoid all licentiousness, evil company, and debauchery, and particularly excess in drinking; for these proceed in time to this extremity of wickedness. Again, be not forgetful to suppress the inward springs and roots of actual murder, and those are pride, hatred, envy, revenge, and excess of anger; which are indeed themselves a kind and degree of murder, as I have shown before. This likewise must be enjoined, that we avoid the outward occasions of this sin, and whatever leads and prepares to it. We should carefully shun all bloody shows and inhuman spectacles, which are incentives to cruelty. Lastly, pray we unto God with great earnestness and fervour, in the language of the Psalmist (Psalm 51:14), that we may be kept by the Divine assistance and influence from the guilt of bloodshed and slaughter, of what kind soever.
( J. Edwards, D. D..)
1. Thou shalt not bear an envious, but thou shalt bear a complacential spirit towards others. Envy, strictly speaking, is that inward hatred of another for some good thing he has, which we have not, but wish for.
2. As we may not bear an envious, so neither may we bear a revengeful temper towards any of our neighbours, but must be disposed in meekness of spirit towards all and every one of them. We must consider that by this commandment those dispositions which are the direct contraries to this revengeful spirit, and which fall under the general word meekness, are enjoined upon us.(1) We must bear a kind and courteous temper of heart towards others, as being members of ourselves; we and they being of one blood, and having the same Father.(2) A disposition to construe everything in the best part.(3) Another part of this meekness is a forgiving temper.(4) A peaceable temper is another branch of meekness.
3. But we may not be of a cruel, but must be of a compassionate disposition. As we may not rejoice in others' sins, so may we not lead any into sin; as those do who take pleasure in making others drunk, or in putting them upon any kind of wickedness. Nor, finally, may we encourage any sin by our example and conduct.
II. We must indulge neither envy, revenge, nor cruelty in our TONGUES; but from a real affection one towards another, our words must be charitable and kind.
III. OUR CONDUCT. Thou shalt not do any damage to thy brother in soul or body, but shalt do him all the good thou canst in both.
(S. Walker, B. A.)
(J. P. Newman, D. D.)
I. HOW THIS COMMAND IS TRANSGRESSED.
1. In old catechisms this commandment is illustrated often by two pictures — the fulfilment of it by the picture of the good Samaritan, the breaking of it by Cain with the club with which he slew his brother. Thus, whoever acts as Cain did — whatever the weapon he uses — transgresses this command (Genesis 9:6). And it is seldom that the Divine order regarding this is escaped — not even here vindicated. A drop of blood, the lethal weapon, a footprint, a chance word, the pangs of remorse, etc., will bring the deed to light. Blood unjustly shed cries for vengeance; and anyone deprived of life — even though a child or man in extremity — is murdered. The life which God has given God alone may take; and one is not guiltless even when he risks his own life in the deadly encounter.
2. The commandment also forbids the maiming, wounding, or injuring the body of another. When the man inflamed by drink injures another, when a man attacks his foe in the descending darkness, etc., there also lurks the spirit of murder.
3. But the tongue, too, may wound bitterly. There is an art by which, through insult or reviling, a neighbour is deeply wounded and bears about the scars for many a year.
4. But the Word of God requires more. It requires that the roots from whence those murderous words or actions spring should be torn up (Matthew 5:22). Such roots are anger, hatred, envy, malignity, revengefulness (1 John 3:15, etc.). He who laughs and is glad when another weeps because of misfortune, etc., has the spirit of the murderer (Proverbs 24:17). Nor must any take on themselves the rewarding of unrighteousness without waiting for God's time (Romans 12:19). In the spirit of revenge lurks the spirit of murder.
II. NOTICE HOW THE COMMAND IS OBEYED.
1. We must turn away from the image of Cain and look on that of the good Samaritan — save those who are in danger of being murdered. If we see one in danger of losing life, say not with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" — pass not by with priest or Levite. Let us cultivate the spirit of the peasant who saved the lives of the bridge keeper and his family when the bridge had fallen, bringing them in the light skiff through the raging flood and crashing in drift safely to the shore and then going his way, putting aside every offer of reward.
2. We must also help men in time of need. If we neglect the hungry when we have plenty and refuse to succour the sick, we are not fulfilling this command (Isaiah 58:7-10).
3. But not only does God seek to take a poisoned root out of man's heart by this command, but to implant another which will bring forth the fruit of love and mercy (Colossians 3:12).
4. We are to live in love and peace even with our enemies. God has forgiven us much; we also must learn to forgive our enemies, etc. "Love is like dew," says the proverb; "it falls on roses and nettles alike." If your foe comes to you saying, "Let us be at peace," he comes in the spirit of this command. But even if he does not thus, come, but goes forth to de what is unjust, then "heap coals of fire on his head" by gentle forbearance; and remember ever the promise, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." "They who turn aside disputing and striving turn the curses into a blessing," says the proverb.
5. Although animals are not made "in the image of God," yet mercifulness to his beast is part of the adornment of a Christian man's character. The man who starves or overdrives his beast sins against the spirit of this command. The tormenter of animals may become the slayer of men. Let the spirit of love reign.
(K. H. Caspari.)
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