« Prev 2.6 The Sixth Commandment Next »

2.6 The Sixth Commandment

‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Exod 20: 13.

In this commandment is a sin forbidden, which is murder, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and a duty implied, which is, to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

The sin forbidden is murder: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Here two things are to be understood, the not injuring another, nor ourselves.

I. The not injuring another.

[1] We must not injure another in his name. ‘A good name is a precious balsam.’ It is a great cruelty to murder a man in his name. We injure others in their name, when we calumniate and slander them. David complains, ‘They laid to my charge things that I knew not.’ Psa 35: 11. The primitive Christians were traduced for incest, and killing their children, as Tertullian says, Dicimur infanaticidii incestus rei [They charge us with infanticide and label us incestuous]. This is to behead others in their good name; it is an irreparable injury. No physician can heal the wounds of the tongue.

[2] We must not injure another in his body. Life is the most precious thing; and God has set this commandment as a fence about it, to preserve it. He made a statute which has never to this day been repealed. ‘Whose sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ Gen 9: 6. In the old law, if a man killed another unawares, he might take sanctuary; but if he killed him willingly, though he fled to the sanctuary, the holiness of the place would not defend him. ‘If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.’ Exod 21: 14. In the commandment, ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ all sins are forbidden which lead to it, and are the occasions of it: As,

(1) Unadvised anger. Anger boils in the veins, and often produces murder. ‘In their anger they slew a man.’ Gen 49: 6.

(2) Envy. Satan envied our first parents the robe of innocence, and the glory of paradise, and could not rest till he had procured their death. Joseph’s brethren, because his father loved him, and gave him a ‘coat of divers colours,’ envied him, and took counsel to slay him. Gen 37: 20. Envy and murder are near akin, therefore the apostle puts them together. ‘Envyings, murders.’ Gal 5: 21. Envy is a sin which breaks both tables at once; it begins in discontent against God, and ends in injury against man, as we see in Cain. Gen 4: 6, 8. Envious Cain was first discontented with God, by which he broke the first table; and then fell out with his brother and slew him, and thus broke the second table. Anger is sometimes ’soon over,’ like fire kindled in straw, which is quickly out; but envy is deep rooted, and will not quench its thirst without blood. ‘Who is able to stand before envy?’ Prov 27: 4.

(3) Hatred. The Pharisees hated Christ because he excelled them in gifts, and had more honour among the people than they. They never left him till they had nailed him to the cross, and taken away his life. Hatred is a vermin which lives upon blood. ‘Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel.’ Ezek 35: 5. Haman hated Mordecai because he would not bow to him, and presently sought revenge, by getting a bloody warrant sealed for the destruction of the whole race and seed of the Jews. Esth 3: 9. Hatred is ever cruel. All these sins are forbidden in this commandment.

How many ways is murder committed?

We may be said to murder another twelve ways. (1) With the hand; as Joab killed Abner and Amass. ‘He smote him in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels.’ 2 Sam 20: 10. (2) With the mind. Malice is mental murder. ‘Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer.’ 1 John 3: 15. To malign another, and wish evil against him in the heart, is murdering him. (3) With the tongue, by speaking to the prejudice of another, and causing him to be put to death. Thus the Jews killed the Lord of life, when they inveighed against him, and accused him falsely to Pilate. John 18: 30. (4) With the pen. Thus David killed Uriah by writing to Joab to ‘set Uriah in the forefront of the battle.’ 2 Sam 11:15. Though the Ammonites’ sword cut off Uriah, yet David’s pen was the cause of his death; and therefore the Lord tells David by the prophet Nathan, ‘Thou hast killed Uriah.’ 2 Sam 12: 9. (5) By plotting another’s death. Thus, though Jezebel did not lay her own hands upon Naboth, yet because she contrived his death, and caused two false witnesses to swear against him, and bring him within the compass of treason, she was the murderer. 1 Kings 21: 9, 10. (6) By putting poison into cups. Thus the wife of Commodes the emperor killed her husband by poisoning the wine which he drank. So, many kill little children by medicines that cause their death. (7) By witchcraft and sorcery — which were forbidden under the law. ‘There shall not be found among you an enchanter, or a witch, or a consulter with familiar spirits.’ Deut 18: 10, 11. (8) By having an intention to kill another; as Herod, under a pretence of worshipping Christ, would have killed him. Matt 2: 8, 13. So, when Saul made David go against the Philistines, he designed that the Philistine should have killed him. ‘Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.’ 1 Sam 18: 17. Here was intentional murder, and it was in God’s account as bad as actual murder. (g) By consenting to another’s death; as Saul to the death of Stephen. ‘I also was standing by and consenting unto his death.’ Acts 22: 20. He that gives consent is accessory to the murder. (10) By not hindering the death of another when in our power. Pilate knew Christ was innocent. ‘I find no fault in him,’ he said, but did not hinder his death; therefore he was guilty. Washing his hands in water could not wash away the guilt of Christ’s blood. (11) By unmercifullness. By taking away that which is necessary for the support of life; as to take away the tools or utensils by which a man gets his living. ‘No man shall take the upper or the nether millstone to pledge, for he taketh a man’s life.’ Deut 24: 6. Or by not helping him when he is ready to perish. You may be the death of another, as well by not relieving him, as by offering him violence. If thou dost not feed him that is starving, thou killest him. How many are thus guilty of the breach of this commandment! (12) By not executing the law upon capital offenders. A felon having committed six murders, the judge may be said to be guilty of five of them, because he did not execute the felon for his first offence.

What are the aggravations of this sin of murder?

(1) To shed the blood of another ceaselessly; as to kill another in a humour or frolic. A bee will not sting unless provoked, but many when not provoked, will take away the life of another. This makes the sin of blood more bloody. The less provocation to a sin the greater sin.

(2) To shed the blood of another contrary to promise. Thus, after the princes of Israel had sworn to the Gibeonites that they should live, Saul slew them. Josh 9: 15. 2 Sam 21: 1. Here were two sins bound together, perjury and murder.

(3) To take away the life of any public person enhances the murder, and makes it greater, as to kill a judge upon the bench, because he represents the king’s person. To murder a person whose office is sacred, and comes on the King of heaven’s embassage; the murdering of whom may be the murdering of many. Herod added this sin above all, that he shut up John the Baptist in prison, much more to behead him in prison. Luke 3: 20. To stain one’s hands with royal blood. David’s heart smote him because he did but cut off the lap of king Saul’s garment. 1 Sam 24: 5. How would David’s heart have smitten him if he had cut off Saul’s head?

(4) To shed the blood of a near relation aggravates the murder, and dyes it of a deeper crimson. For a son to kill his father is horrid. Parricides are monsters in nature. Qui occidit patrem, plurima committit peccata in uno. Cicero. ‘He who takes away his father’s life, commits many sins in one;’ he is not guilty of murder only, but of disobedience, ingratitude, and diabolical cruelty. ‘He who striketh his father or mother, shall be surely put to death.’ Exod 21: 15. Then how many deaths is he worthy of that destroys his father or mother! Such a monster was Nero, who caused his mother, Agrippina, to be slain.

(5) To shed the blood of any righteous person aggravates the sin. Hereby justice is perverted. Such a person being innocent, is unworthy of death. A saint being a public blessing, lies in the breach to turn away wrath; so that to destroy him is to pull down the pillars of a nation. He is precious to God. Psa 116: 15. He is a member of Christ’s body; therefore what injury is offered to him is done to God himself. Acts 9: 4.

Though, however, this commandment forbids private persons to shed the blood of another, unless in their own defence, yet, such as are in office must punish public offenders, even with death. To kill an offender is not murder, but justice. A private person sins if he draws the sword; a public person sins if he puts up the sword. A magistrate ought not to let the sword of justice rust in the scabbard. As he should not let the sword be too sharp by severity, so neither should the edge of it be blunted by too much levity.

Neither does this commandment prohibit a just war. When men’s sins grow ripe, and long plenty has bred surfeit, God says, ‘Sword, go through the land.’ Ezek 14: 17. He encouraged the war between the tribes of Israel and Benjamin. When the iniquity of the Amorites was full, he sent Israel to war against them. Judges 11: 21.

Use one. It should be for a lamentation that this land is defiled with blood. Numb 35: 33. How common is this sin in this boasting age! England’s sins are written in letters of blood. Some make no more of killing men than sheep. ‘In thy skirts is found the blood of the poor innocents.’ Jer 2: 34. Junius reads it, in alis; and so in Hebrew, ‘in thy wings’ is found the blood of innocents. It alludes to the birds of prey, which stain their wings with the blood of other birds. May not the Lord justly take up a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because ‘blood toucheth blood’? Hos 4: 2. There are wholesale murders. And that which should increase our lamentation is, that not only man’s blood is shed among us, but Christ’s blood. Profane flagitious sinners are said to ‘crucify the son of God afresh.’ Heb 6: 6. (1) They swear by his blood, and so, as it were, make his wounds bleed afresh. (2) They crucify Christ in his members. ‘Why persecutes thou me?’ Acts 9: 4. The foot being trodden on, the head cries out. (3) If it lay in their power, were Christ alive on earth, they would nail him again to the cross. Thus men crucify Christ afresh; and, if man’s blood so cries, how loud will Christ’s blood cry against sinners?

Use two. Beware of having your hands imbrued in the blood of others.

But such a one has wronged me by defamation, or otherwise; and if I spill his blood, I shall but revenge my own quarrel!

If he has done you wrong, the law is open; but take heed of shedding blood. What! Because he has wronged you, will you therefore wrong God? Is it not doing wrong to God to take his work out of his hand? He has said ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ Rom 12: 19. You would undertake to revenge yourself; would be plaintiff, and judge, and executioner, in yourself. This is a great wrong done to God, and he will not hold you guiltless.

To deter all from having their hands defiled with blood, consider what a sin murder is. It is (1) A God-affronting sin. It is a breach of his command, and trampling upon his royal edict. It is a wrong offered to God’s image. ‘In the image of God made he man.’ Gen 9: 6. It is tearing God’s picture, and breaking in pieces the King of heaven’s broad seal. Man is the temple of God. ‘Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?’ 1 Cor 6: 19. The man-slayer destroys God’s temple; and will God endure to be thus confronted by proud dust?

(2) It is a crying sin. Clamitat in coelum vox sanguinis [The voice of blood cries to Heaven]. There are three sins in Scripture which are said to cry. Oppression. Psa 12: 5. Sodomy. Gen 18: 21. Bloodshed. This cries so loud, that it drowns all the other cries. ‘The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’ Gen 4: 10. Abel’s blood had as many tongues as drops, to cry aloud for vengeance. This sin of blood lay heavy on David’s conscience; though he had sinned by adultery, yet, what he cried out for most was, this crimson sin of blood. ‘Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God.’ Psa 51: 14. Though the Lord visits for every sin, yet he will in a special manner make ‘inquisition for blood.’ Psa 9: 12. If a beast killed a man it was to be stoned, and its flesh was not to be eaten. Exod 21: 28. If God would have a beast stoned that killed a man, which had not the use of reason to restrain it, much more will he be incensed against those who, against both reason and conscience, take away the life of a man.

(3) Murder is a diabolical sin. It makes a man the devil’s first born, for he was a murderer from the beginning. John 8: 44. By saying to our first parents, ‘Ye shall not die,’ he brought death into the world.

(4) It is a cursed sin. If there be a curse for him that smites his neighbour secretly, he is doubly cursed that kills him. Deut 27: 24. The first man that was born was a murderer. ‘And now art thou cursed from the earth.’ Gen 4: 11. He was an excommunicated person, banished from the place of God’s public worship. God set a mark upon bloody Cain. Gen 4: 15. Some think that mark was horror of mind, which, above all sins, accompanies the sin of blood. Others think it was a continual shaking and trembling in his flesh. He carried a curse along with him.

(5) It is a wrath-procuring sin. 2 Kings 24: 4.

It procures temporal judgements. Phocas, to get the empire, put to death all the sons of Mauritius the emperor, and then slew the emperor himself; but he was pursued by Priscus, his son-in-law, who cut off his ears and feet, and then killed him. Charles IX, who caused the massacre of so many Christians at Paris, died from blood issuing out of several parts of his body. Albania killed a man and made of his skull a cup to drink in. His own wife, soon afterwards, caused him to be murdered in his bed. Vengeance as a bloodhound pursues the murderer. ‘Bloody men shall not live out half their days.’ Psa 55: 23. It brings eternal judgements. It binds men over to hell. The Papists make nothing of massacres, because theirs is a bloody religion; they give a dispensation for murder, if it be to propagate the Catholic cause. If a cardinal puts his red hat upon the head of a murderer going to execution, he saves him from death. Let all impenitent murderers read their doom in Rev 21: 8: ‘Murderers shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’ We read of ‘fire mingled with blood.’ Rev 8: 7. Such as have their hands full of blood must undergo the wrath of God. Here is fire mingled with blood, and this fire is inextinguishable. Mark 9: 44. Time will not finish it, tears will not quench it.

[3] We must not injure another in his soul. This is the greatest murder of all, because there is more of God’s image in the soul than in the body. Though the soul cannot be annihilated, it is said to be murdered when it is deprived of its happiness, and is for ever in torment. How many are soul murderers!

(1) Such as corrupt others by bad example. The world is led by example; especially by the examples of great ones, which are very pernicious. We are apt to do as we see others before us, especially those above us. Such as are placed in high power, are like the pillar of cloud; where that went, Israel went. When great ones move, others will follow them, though it be to hell. Evil magistrates, like the tail of the dragon, draw the ‘third part of the stars after them.’

(2) Such as entice others to sin. The harlot by curling her hair, rolling her eyes, laying open her breasts, does what in her lies to be both a tempter and a murderer. Such a one was Messalina, wife to Claudius the emperor. ‘I discerned a young man, and there met him a woman with the attire of a harlot; so she caught him and kissed him.’ Prov 7: 10, 13. Better are the reproofs of a friend, than the kisses of a harlot.

(3) Ministers are murderers, who either starve, or poison, or infect souls. [1] That starve souls. ‘Feed the flock of God which is among you.’ 1 Pet 5: 2. These feed themselves and starve the flock; either through non-residing, they do not preach, or through insufficiency, they cannot. There are many in the ministry so ignorant that they had need to be taught the ‘first principles of the oracles of God.’ Heb 5: 12. Was he fit to be a preacher in Israel, think ye, who being asked something concerning the decalogue, answered he never saw any such book? [2] That poison souls. Such are heterodox ministers, who poison people with error. The basilisk poisons herbs and flowers by breathing on them; so the breath of heretical ministers poisons souls. The Socinian, who would rob Christ of his Godhead; the Armenian, who by advancing the power of the will, would take off the crown from the head of free-grace; the Antinomian, who denies the use of the moral law to a believer, as if it were antiquated and out of date — poison men’s souls. Error is as damnable as vice. ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them.’ 2 Pet 2: 1. [3] That infect souls by their scandalous lives. ‘Let the priests which come near to the Lord sanctify themselves.’ Exod 19: 22. Ministers who by their places are nearer to God, should be holier than others. The higher the elements are, the purer they are; air is purer than water; fire is purer than air. The higher men are in office, the holier they should be. John the Baptist was a shining lamp. But there are many who infect their people with their bad life; they preach one thing, and live another. Qui Curios simulant et bacchanalia vivunt [They make a show of goodness, but live a life of riot]. Like Eli’s sons, they are in white linen, but have scarlet sins. Some say, that Prester John, the lord of Africa, caused to be carried before him a golden cup full of dirt; a fit emblem of such ministers as have a golden office, but are dirty and polluted in their lives. They are murderers, and the blood of souls will cry against them at the last day.

(4) Such as destroy others by getting them into bad company, and so make them proselytes to the devil. Vitia in proximum quamque transiliunt [Our vices leap on to the man next to us]. Seneca. A man cannot live in the Ethiopian climate but he will be discoloured with the sun, nor can he be in bad company but he will partake of their evil. One drunkard makes another; as the prophet speaks in another sense. ‘I set before them pots full of wine, and cups, and said unto them, Drink ye wine;’ so the wicked set pots of wine before others, and made them drink till reason be stupefied, and lust inflamed. Jer 35: 5. Such are guilty of the breach of this commandment. How sad will it be with those who have not only their own sins, but the blood of others to answer for! So much for the first thing forbidden in the commandment, the injuring of others.

II. THE second thing forbidden in this commandment is, injuring ourselves. ‘Thou shalt not kill:’ thou shalt do no hurt to thyself.

Thou shalt not hurt thy own body. One may be guilty of self-murder, either 1. Indirectly or occasionally. Or, 2. Directly and absolutely.

[1] Indirectly and occasionally; as

(1) When a man thrusts himself into danger which he might prevent. If a company of archers were shooting, and one should put himself in the place where the arrows fly, so that an arrow kills him, he is accessory to his own death. In the law, God would have the leper shut up, to keep others from being infected. Lev 13: 4. If any should be so presumptuous as to go to a leper, and get the plague of leprosy, he might thank himself for his own death. (2) A person may be guilty of his own death, in some sense, by neglecting the use of means for preserving life. If sick, and he uses no remedy; if he has received a wound, and will not apply a cure, he hastens his own death. God commanded Hezekiah to lay a ‘lump of figs upon the boil.’ Isa 38: 21. If he had not done so, he would have been the cause of his own death. (3) By immoderate grief. ‘The sorrow of the world worketh death.’ 2 Cor 7: 10. When God takes away a dear relation, and any one is swallowed up with sorrow, he endangers his life. How many weep themselves into their graves! Queen Mary grieved so excessively for the loss of Calais, that it broke her heart. (4) By intemperance or excess in diet. Surfeiting shortens life. Plures periere crapula, quam gladio [More perish by drink than by the sword]. Many dig their grave with their teeth. Too much oil chokes the lamp. The cup kills more than the cannon. Excessive drinking causes untimely death.

{2] One may be guilty of self-murder, directly and absolutely.

(1) By envy. Envy is tristitia de bonis alienis, ‘a secret repining at the welfare of another.’ Invidus alterius rebus macrescit opimis. ‘An envious man is more sorry at another’s prosperity, than at his own adversity.’ He never laughs but when another weeps. Envy is a self-murder, a fretting canker. Cyprian calls it vulnus occultum, ‘a secret wound;’ it hurts a man’s self most. Envy corrodes the heart, dries up the blood, rots the bones. Envy is ‘the rottenness of the bones.’ Prov 14: 30. It is to the body what the moth is to the cloth, that eats it and makes its beauty consume. Envy drinks its own venom. The viper, which leaped on Paul’s hand, thought to have hurt Paul, but fell into the fire itself. Acts 28: 3. So, while the envious man thinks to hurt another, he destroys himself.

(2) By laying violent hands on himself, and thus he commits felo de se; as Saul fell upon his own sword and killed himself. It is the most unnatural and barbarous kind of murder for a man to butcher himself and imbrue his hands in his own blood. A man’s self is most near to him, therefore this sin of self-murder breaks both the law of God, and the bonds of nature. The Lord has placed the soul in the body, as in a prison; and it is a sin to break open this prison till God opens the door. Self-murderers are worse than the brute-creatures, which will tear and gore open one another, but not destroy themselves. Self-murder is occasioned usually by discontent, and a sullen melancholy. The bird that beats itself in the cage, and is ready to kill itself, is a true emblem of a discontented spirit.

Whence comes this discontent?

This discontent arises — (1) From pride. A man who swells with a high opinion of himself, and thinks he deserves better than others, when any great calamity befalls him, is discontented, and in a sudden passion will make away with himself. Ahithophel had high thoughts of himself, his words were esteemed oracles, and he could not bear to have his wise counsel rejected. ‘He put his household in order, and hanged himself.’ 2 Sam 17: 23. (2) From poverty. Poverty is a sore temptation. ‘Give me not poverty.’ Prov 30: 8. Many have brought themselves to poverty by their sin; and when a great estate is boiled away to nothing, they are discontented, and think it better to die quickly, than languish in misery, and the devil soon helps them to dispatch themselves. (3) From covetousness. Avarice is a dry drunkenness, a horse-leech that is never satisfied. The covetous man is like behemoth. ‘Behold he drinketh up a river,’ and yet his thirst is not allayed. Job 40: 33. The covetous miser hoards up corn; and if he hears the price of corn begins to fall, he is troubled, and there is no cure for his discontent but a halter. (4) From horror of mind. A man has sinned a great sin, has swallowed down some pills of temptation the devil has given him, and these pills begin to work in his conscience, and the horror becomes so great, that he chooses strangling. Judas having betrayed innocent blood, was in such an agony of conscience, that he hanged himself; as if, to avoid the stinging of a gnat, any one should endure the bite of a serpent. I can see no ground of hope for such as make away with themselves; for they die in the very act of sin, and cannot have time to repent.

Hurting our own souls is forbidden in the command, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Many who are free from other murders, are guilty here. They murder their own souls. They wilfully damn themselves, and throw themselves into hell.

Who are they that murder their own souls?

(1) They wilfully murder their souls who have no sense of God, or the world to come, and are past feeling. Eph 4: 19. Tell them of God’s holiness and justice, and they are not at all affected. ‘They made their hearts as an adamant stone.’ Zech 7: 12, ‘The adamant,’ says Pliny, ‘is insuperable, the hammer cannot conquer it.’ Sinners have adamantine hearts. When the prophet spake to the altar of stone, it rent asunder, but sinner’s hearts are so hardened in sin (1 Kings 13: 5), nothing will work upon them, neither ordinances nor judgements. They do not believe in a God; they laugh at hell. Thus they murder their own souls, and throw themselves into hell as fast as they can.

(2) They wilfully murder their own souls who resign themselves to their lusts, let what will come of it. The soul cries out in you, I am killing myself; I am murdering myself. They ‘have given themselves over to work all uncleanness with greediness.’ Eph 4: 19. Let ministers speak to them about their sins, let conscience speak, let affliction speak, they will have their lusts, even though they go to hell for them. Do not these murder their own souls? As Agrippina, mother of Nero, said, occidat modo imperet, let my son kill me, so he may reign; so many say in their hearts, let our sins damn us, so that they but please us. Herod will have his incestuous lusts, though it costs him his soul; and for a drop of pleasure men will drink a sea of wrath. Do not these massacre and damn their own souls?

(3) They murder their souls who avoid all means of saving them. They will go to plays, to drunken meetings, but will not set their foot in God’s house, or come near the sound of the gospel-trumpet; as if one that is diseased should shun the bath for fear of being healed. These are self murderers as much as one who has the means of cure offered him, but chooses rather to die.

(4) They voluntarily murder their souls who take false prejudices against religion; as if it were so strict and severe that they must live a melancholy life, like hermits and anchorites, and drown all their joys in tears. It is a slander which the devil casts upon religion, for there is no true joy but in believing. Rom 15: 1, 3. No honey is so sweet as that which drops from a promise. Some men foolishly take up a prejudice against religion; they are resolved never to go to heaven, rather than go through the strait gate. I may say of prejudice, as Paul to Elymas, ‘O prejudice, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,’ how many souls hast thou damned? Acts 13: 10.

(5) They wilfully murder their own souls who will neither be good themselves, nor suffer others to be so. ‘Ye neither go [into the kingdom of heaven] yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.’ Matt 23: 13. Such are they who persecute others for their religion. Drunken meetings may escape punishments from them, but if men meet to serve God, all severity will be used. They are resolved to shipwreck others, though they themselves are cast away in the storm. Oh! take heed of murdering your own souls. No creature but man willingly kills itself.

III. THE positive duty implied in the command is, that we should do all the good we can to ourselves and others.

[1] In reference to others. We should endeavour to preserve the lives and souls of others. [2] In reference to ourselves. We should preserve our own life and soul.

[1] In reference to others. We are to preserve the life of others. We should comfort them in their sorrows, relieve them in their wants, and like the good Samaritan, pour wine and oil into their wounds. ‘I was a father to the poor.’ Job 29: 16. ‘The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me.’ Ver 13. It is a great means of preserving the life of another to relieve him when he is ready to perish. When there was a great dearth in Rome, Pompey provided corn for its relief; and when the mariners were afraid to sail thither in a tempest, he said, ‘It is not necessary that we should live, but it is necessary that Rome be relieved.’ Grace makes the heart tender, it causes sympathy and charity. As it melts the heart in contrition towards God, so in compassion towards others. ‘He has dispersed, he has given to the poor.’ Psa 29: 9. This commandment implies that we should be so far from ruining others, that we should do all we can to preserve the lives of others. When you see the picture of death drawn in their faces, administer to their necessities; be temporal saviours to then; draw them out of the waters of affliction with a silver cord of charity. That I may persuade you to this, let me lay before you some arguments: —

(1) Works of charity evidence grace. As Faith. ‘I will show thee my faith by my works.’ James 2: 18. Works are faith’s letters of credence. We judge of the health of the body by the pulse where the blood stirs and operates; so Christian, judge of the health of thy faith by the pulse of charity. The word of God is the rule of faith, and good works are the witnesses of faith. It evidences also Love. Love loves mercy; it is a noble bountiful grace. Mary loved Christ, and how liberal was her love! She bestowed on Christ her tears, kisses, and costly ointments. Love, like a full vessel, will have vent; it vents itself in acts of liberality.

(2) To communicate to the necessities of others is not left to our choice, but is an incumbent duty. ‘Charge them that are rich in this world that they do good; that they be rich in good works.’ 1 Tim 6: 17, 18. This is not only a counsel, but a charge. If God should lay a charge upon the inanimate creatures, they would obey; if he should charge the rocks, they would send forth water; if he should charge the clouds, they would melt into showers; if he should charge the stones, they would become bread. And shall we be harder than the stones, not to obey God when he charges us to ‘be rich in good works?’

(3) God supplies our wants, and shall not we supply the wants of others? ‘We could not live without mercy.’ God makes every creature helpful to us: the sun to enrich us with its golden beams; the earth to yield us its increase, veins of gold, crops of corn, and store of flowers. God opens the treasury of his mercy; he feeds us every day out of the alms-basket of his providence. ‘Thou openest thy hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.’ Psa 145: 16. Does God supply our wants, and shall we not minister to the wants of others? Shall we be as a sponge to suck in mercy, and not as breasts to milk it out to others?

(4) Herein we resemble God, to be doing good to others. It is our excellence to be like God. ‘Godliness is Godlikeness.’ When are we more like him than in acts of bounty and munificence? ‘Thou art good, and does good.’ Psa 119: 68. ‘Thou art good,’ there is his essential goodness; and ‘doest good,’ there is his communicative goodness. The more helpful we are to others, the more like we are to God. We cannot be like God in omniscience, or in working miracles; but we may be like him in doing works of mercy.

(5) God remembers all our deeds of charity, and takes them kindly at our hands. ‘God is not unrighteous to forget your labour of love which ye have shewed towards his name, in that you have ministered to the saints.’ Heb 6: 10. The chief butler may forget Joseph’s kindness, but the Lord will not forget any kindness we show to his people. ‘I was an hungred and ye gave me meat; thirsty, and ye gave me drink.’ Matt 25: 35. Christ takes the kindness done to his saints as done to himself. God has a bottle for your tears, and a book to write down your alms. ‘A book of remembrance was written before him.’ Mal 3: 16. Tamerlane had a register to write down all the names and good services of his soldiers; so God has a book of remembrance to write down all your charitable works; and at the day of judgement there shall be an open and honourable mention made of them in the presence of the angels.

(6) Hardheartedness to others in misery reproaches the gospel. When men’s hearts are like pieces of rock, or as the scales of the leviathan, ‘shut up as with a close seal,’ you may as well extract oil out of flint, as the golden oil of charity out of them. Job 41: 15. They unchristianize themselves. Unmercifullness is the sin of the heathen. ‘Unmerciful.’ Rom 1: 31. It eclipses the glory of the gospel. Does the gospel teach uncharitableness? Does it not bid us ‘draw out thy soul to the hungry’? Isa 58: 10. ‘These things I will that thou affirm, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works.’ Tit 3: 8. While you relieve not such as are in want, you walk in opposition to the gospel; you cause it to be evil spoken of, and lay it open to the lash and censure of others.

(7) There is nothing lost by relieving the necessitous. The Shunammite woman was kind to the prophet, she welcomed him to her house, and she received kindness from him another way; he restored her dead child to life. 2 Kings 4: 35. Such as are helpful to others, shall ‘find grace to help in time of need.’ Such as pour out the golden oil of compassion to others, shall have the golden oil of salvation by God poured out to them; for ‘a cup of cold water’ they shall have ‘rivers of pleasure.’ God will make it up some way or other in this life. ‘The liberal soul shall be made fat.’ Prov 11: 25. It shall be as the loaves in breaking multiplied; or, as the widow’s oil, increased in pouring out. 1 Kings 17: 16. An estate may be imparted without being impaired.

(8) To do good to others in necessity keeps up the credit of religion. Works of mercy adorn the gospel, as the fruit adorns the tree. When ‘one light so shines that others see our good works,’ it glorifies God, crowns religion, and silences the lips of gainsayers. Basil says nothing rendered the true religion more famous in the primitive times, and made more proselytes to it, than the bounty and charity of Christians.

(9) The evil that accrues by not preserving the lives of others, and helping them in their necessities. God often sends a secret moth into their estate. ‘There is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.’ Prov 11: 24. ‘Whose stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.’ Prov 21: 13. ‘He shall have judgement without mercy, that has shewed no mercy.’ James 2: 13. Dives denied Lazarus a crumb of bread, and Dives was denied a drop of water. ‘Depart from me, ye cursed; for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat.’ Matt 15: 41. Christ says not, ‘Ye took away my meat;’ but ‘Ye gave me no meat;’ ye did not feed my members, therefore ‘depart from me.’ By all this, be ready to distribute to the necessities of others. This is included in the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Not only thou shalt not destroy another’s life, but thou shalt preserve it by ministering to his necessities.

It is implied that we should endeavour to preserve the souls of others: counsel them about their souls; set life and death before them; help them to heaven. In the law, if one met his neighbour’s ox or ass going astray, he must bring him back again. Exod 23: 4. Much more, if we see our neighbour’s soul going astray, we should use all means to bring him back to God by repentance.

[2] In reference to ourselves. The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ requires that we should preserve our own life and soul. It is engraven upon every creature that he should preserve his own natural life. We must be so far from self-murder, that we must do all we can to preserve natural life. We must use all means of diet, exercise, and lawful recreation, which, like oil, preserves the lamp of life from going out. Some have been tempted by Satan to believe they are such sinners that they do not deserve a bit of bread, and so they have been ready to starve themselves. This is contrary to the commandment, ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ which implies that we are to use all proper means for the preservation of life. ‘Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.’ 1 Tim 5: 23. Timothy was not, by drinking too much water, to overcool his stomach, and weaken nature, but to use means for self-preservation — to drink ‘a little wine,’ &c.

This commandment requires that we should also endeavour to preserve our own souls. Omnia si perdas animam servare memento [Though you lose all else, remember to save your soul]. It is engraven upon every creature, as with the point of a diamond, to look to its own preservation. If the life of the body must be preserved, much more the life of the soul. If he who does not provide for his own house is worse than an infidel, much more he who does not provide for his own soul. 1 Tim 5: 8. A main thing implied in the commandment is a special care for preserving our souls. The soul is a jewel, a diamond set in a ring of clay; Christ puts the soul in balance with the world, and it outweighs all. Matt 16: 26. The soul is a glass. in which some rays of divine glory shine; it has in it some faint idea and resemblance of a Deity; it is a celestial spark lighted by the breath of God. The body was made of the dust, but the soul is of a more noble origin. God breathed into man a living soul. Gen 2: 7.

(1) The soul is excellent in its nature. It is a spiritual being, ‘it is a kind of angelical thing.’ The mind sparkles with knowledge, the will is crowned with liberty, and all the affections are as stars shining in their orb. The soul being spiritual, it is of quick operation. How quick are the motions of a spark! How swift the wing of a cherubim! So quick and agile is the motion of the soul! What is quicker than thought? How many miles can the soul travel in an instant! The soul, being spiritual, moves upwards, it contemplates God and glory. ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee?’ Psa 73: 25. The motion of the soul is upward; but sin has put a wrong bias upon it, and made it move downward. The soul, being spiritual, has a self-moving power; it can subsist and move when the body is dead, as the mariner can subsist when the ship is broken. The soul, being spiritual, is immortal (Scaliger), aeternitatis gemma, ‘a bud of eternity.’

(2) As the soul is excellent in its nature, so in its capacities. It is capable of grace, it is fit to be an associate and companion of angels. It is capable of communion with God, of being Christ’s spouse. ‘I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.’ 2 Cor 11: 2. It is capable of being crowned with glory for ever. Oh! then, carrying such precious souls about you, created with the breath of God, redeemed with the blood of God, what endeavours should you use for the saving of these souls! Let not the devil have your souls. Heliogabalus fed his lions with pheasants: the devil is called a roaring lion: feed him not with your souls. Besides the excellence of the soul, which may make you labour to get it saved, consider how sad it will be not to have the soul saved; it is such a loss as there is none like it; because in losing the soul, you lose many things with it. A merchant in losing his ship, loses many things with it: he loses money, jewels, spices, &c.; so he that loses his soul, loses Christ and the company of angels in heaven. It is an infinite loss — an irreparable loss; it can never be made up again. ‘Two eyes and one soul.’ Chrysostom. Oh! what care should be taken of the immortal soul! I would request but this of you, that you take as much care for the saving of your souls as you do for getting an estate. Nay, do but take as much care for saving your souls as the devil does for destroying them. Oh! how industrious is Satan to damn souls! How does he play the serpent in his subtle laying of snares to catch souls! How does he shoot the fiery darts! He is never idle; he is a busy bishop in his diocese; he ‘walketh about seeking whom he may devour.’ 1 Pet 5: 8. Now, is it not a reasonable request to take as much care for saving your souls as the devil does for destroying them?

How can we have our souls saved?

By having them sanctified. Only the ‘pure in heart shall see God.’ Get your souls inlaid and enamelled with holiness. 1 Pet 1: 16. It is not enough that ‘we cease to do evil;’ which is all the evidence some have to show, and lose heaven by short shooting; but we must be inwardly sanctified. Not only the ‘unclean spirit’ must go out, but we must be filled with the Holy Ghost. Eph 5: 19. This holiness must needs be, if you consider God is to dwell with you here, and you are to dwell with him hereafter.

God is to dwell with you here. He takes up the soul for his own lodging. ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts.’ Eph 3: 17. Therefore the soul must be consecrated. A king’s palace must be kept clean, especially his presence chamber. The body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor 6: 19. The soul is the sanctum sanctorum; how holy should it be!

You are to dwell with God. Heaven is a holy place. ‘An inheritance undefiled.’ 1 Pet 1: 4. And how can you dwell with God till you are sanctified? We do not put wine into a musty vessel; and God will not put the new wine of glory into a sinful heart. Oh, then, as you love your souls, and would have them saved eternally, endeavour after holiness! By this means you will have a fitness for the kingdom of heaven, and your souls will be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

« Prev 2.6 The Sixth Commandment Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |