PART III : THE DECALOGUE
Importance Of Instruction On The Commandments
St. Augustine in his writings remarks that the Decalogue is the summary and epitome of all laws: Although the Lord had spoken many things, He gave to Moses only two stone tablets, called "tables of testimony," to be placed in the Ark. For if carefully examined and well understood, whatever else is commanded by God will be found to depend on the Ten Commandments which were engraved on those two tables, just as these Ten Commandments, in turn, are reducible to two, the love of God and of our neighbour, on which "depend the whole law and the prophets."
Since, then, the Decalogue is a summary of the whole Law, the pastor should give his days and nights to its consideration, that he may be able not only to regulate his own life by its precepts, but also to instruct in the law of God the people committed to his care. The lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth, because he is the angel of the Lord of hosts. To the priests of the New Law this injunction applies in a special manner; they are nearer to God, and should be transformed from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. Since Christ our Lord has called them light, it is their special duty to be a light to them that are in darkness, the instructors of the foolish, the teachers of infants; and if a man be overtaken in any fault, they who are spiritual should instruct such a one.
In the tribunal of penance the priest holds the place of a judge, and pronounces sentence according to the nature and gravity of the offence. Unless, therefore, he is desirous that his ignorance should prove an injury to himself and to others, he must bring with him to the discharge of this duty the greatest vigilance and the most practiced acquaintance with the interpretation of the law, in order to be able to pronounce, according to this divine rule, on every act and omission; and, as the Apostle says, to teach sound doctrine, free from error, and heal the diseases of the soul, which are sins, in order that the people may be acceptable to God, pursuers of good works.
Motives for Observing the Commandments
In these instructions the pastor should propose to himself and to others motives for keeping the Commandments
God Is The Giver Of The Commandments
Now among all the motives which induce men to obey this law the strongest is that God is its author. True, it is said to have been delivered by angels, but no one can doubt that its author is God. This is most clear not only from the words of the Legislator Himself, which we shall shortly explain, but also from innumerable other passages of Scripture that will readily occur to pastors.
Who is not conscious that a law is inscribed on his heart by God, teaching him to distinguish good from evil, vice from virtue, justice from injustice? The force and import of this unwritten law do not conflict with that which is written. Who is there, then, who will dare to deny that God is the author of the written, as He is of the unwritten law ?
But, lest the people, aware of the abrogation of the Mosaic Law, may imagine that the precepts of the Decalogue are no longer obligatory, it should be taught that when God gave the Law to Moses, He did not so much establish a new code, as render more luminous that divine light b which the depraved morals and long-continued perversity of man had at that time almost obscured. It is most certain that we are not bound to obey the Commandments because they were delivered by Moses, but because they are implanted in the hearts of all, and have been explained and confirmed by Christ our Lord.
The reflection that God is the author of the law is highly useful, and exercises great influence in persuading (to its observance); for we cannot doubt His wisdom and justice, nor can we escape His infinite power and might. Hence, when by His Prophets He commands the law to be observed, He proclaims that He is the Lord God; and the Decalogue itself opens: I am the Lord thy God; and elsewhere (we read): If I am a master, where is my fear?
That God has deigned to make clear to us His holy will on which depends our eternal salvation (is a consideration) which, besides animating the faithful to the observance of His Commandments, must call forth their gratitude Hence Scripture, in more passages than one, recalling this great blessing, admonishes the people to recognise their own dignity and the bounty of the Lord Thus in Deuteronomy it is said: This is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of nations, that hearing all these precepts they may say: Behold a wise and understanding people, a great nation; again, in the Psalm (we read): He hath not done in like manner to every nation, and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.
The Commandments Were Proclaimed With Great Solemnity
If the pastor explain the circumstances which accompanied the promulgation of the Law, as recorded in Scripture, the faithful will easily understand with what piety and humility they should receive and reverence the Law received from God.
All were commanded by God that for three days before the promulgation of the Law they should wash their garments and abstain from conjugal intercourse, in order that they might be more holy and better prepared to receive the Law, and that on the third day they should be in readiness When they had reached the mountain from which the Lord was to deliver the Law by Moses, Moses alone was commanded to ascend the mountain. Thither came God with great majesty, filling the place with thunder and lightning, with fire and dense clouds, and began to speak to Moses, and delivered to him the Commandments
In this the divine wisdom had solely for object to admonish us that the law of the Lord should be received with pure and humble minds, and that over the neglect of His commands impend the heaviest chastisements of the divine justice.
The Observance Of The Commandments Is Not Difficult
The pastor should also teach that the Commandments of God are not difficult, as these words of St Augustine are alone sufficient to show: How, I ask, is it said to be impossible for man to love -- to love, I say, a beneficent Creator, a most loving Father, and also, in the persons of his , brethren to love his own flesh? Yet, "he who loveth has fulfilled the law." Hence the Apostle St. John expressly says that the commandments of God are not heavy; for as St. Bernard observes, nothing more just could be exacted from man, nothing that could confer on him a more exalted dignity, nothing more advantageous. Hence St. Augustine, filled with admiration of God's infinite goodness, thus addresses God : What is man that Thou wouldst be loved by him ? And if he loves Thee not, Thou threatenest t him with heavy punishment. Is it not punishment enough that I love Thee not ?
But should anyone plead human infirmity to excuse himself for not loving God, it should be explained that He who demands our love pours into our hearts by the Holy Ghost the fervour of His love; and this good Spirit our heavenly Father gives to those that ask him with reason, therefore, did St. Augustine pray: Give what thou commandest and command what thou pleasest. As, then, God is ever ready to help us, especially since the death of Christ the Lord, by which the prince of this world was cast out, there is no reason why anyone should be disheartened by the difficulty of the undertaking. To him who loves, nothing is difficult.
The Observance Of The Commandments Is Necessary
Furthermore, it will contribute much to persuade (obedience to the law) if it is explained that such obedience is necessary, especially since in these our days there are not wanting those who, to their own serious injury, have the impious hardihood to assert that the observance of the law, whether easy or difficult, is by no means necessary to salvation.
This wicked and impious error the pastor should refute from Scripture, especially from the same Apostle by whose authority they attempt to defend their wickedness. What, then, are the words of the Apostle? Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Again, inculcating the same doctrine, he says: , new creature, in Christ, alone avails. By a new creature in Christ he evidently means him who observes the Commandments of God; for, he who observes the Commandments of God loves God, as our Lord Himself testifies in St. John: If anyone love me, he will keep my word.
A man, it is true, may be justified, and from wicked may become righteous, before he has fulfilled, by external acts, each of the Commandments; but no one who has arrived at the use of reason can be justified, unless he is resolved to keep all of God's Commandments.
The Observance Of The Commandments Is Attended By Many Blessings
Finally, to leave nothing unsaid that may be calculated to induce the faithful to an observance of the law, the pastor should point out how abundant and sweet are its fruits. This he will easily accomplish by referring to the eighteenth Psalm, which celebrates the praises of the divine law. The highest eulogy of the law is that it proclaims the glory and the majesty of God more eloquently than even the heavenly bodies, whose beauty and order excite the admiration of all peoples, even the most uncivilised, and compel them to acknowledge the glory, wisdom and power of the Creator and Architect of the universe.
The law of the Lord also converts souls to God; for knowing the ways of God and His holy will through the medium of His law, we turn our steps into the ways of the Lord.
It also gives wisdom to little ones; for they alone who fear God are truly wise. Hence, the observers of the law of God are filled with pure delights, with knowledge of divine mysteries, and are blessed with plenteous joys and rewards both in this life and in the life to come.
In our observance of the law, however, we should not act so much for our own advantage as for the sake of God who, by means of the law, has revealed His will to man. If other creatures are obedient to God's will, how much more reasonable that man should follow it?
God's Goodness Invites Us To Keep His Commandments
Nor should it be omitted that God has preeminently displayed His clemency and the riches of His goodness in this, that while He might have forced us to serve His glory without a reward, He has, notwithstanding, deigned to identify His own glory with our advantage, thus rendering what tends to His honour, conducive to our interests.
This is a great and striking consideration; and the pastor, therefore, should teach in the concluding words of the Prophet that in keeping them there is a great reward. Not only are we promised those blessings which seem to have reference to earthly happiness, such, for example, as to be blessed in the city, and blessed in the field: but we are also promised a great reward in heaven, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, which, aided by the divine mercy, we merit by our holy and pious actions.
The Promulgation of the Law
I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing. The Law, although delivered to the Jews by the Lord from the mountain, was long before written and impressed by nature on the heart of man, and was therefore rendered obligatory by God for all men and all times.
The People To Whom The Law Was Given
It will be very useful, however, to explain carefully the words in which it was proclaimed to the Hebrews by Moses, its minister and interpreter, and also the history of the Israelites, which is so full of mysteries.
Epitome Of Jewish History
(The pastor) should first tell that from among the nations of the earth God chose one which descended from Abraham; that it was the divine will that Abraham should be a stranger in the land of Canaan, the possession of which He had promised him; and that, although for more than four hundred years he and his posterity were wanderers before they dwelt in the promised land, God never withdrew from them, throughout their wanderings, His protecting care. They passed from nation to nation and from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to hurt them, and He even reproved kings for their sakes.
Before they went down into Egypt He sent before them one by whose prudence they and the Egyptians were rescued from famine. In Egypt such was His kindness towards them that although opposed by the power of Pharaoh who sought their destruction, they increased to an extraordinary degree; and when they were severely harassed and cruelly treated as slaves, God raised up Moses as a leader to lead them out in a strong hand. It is especially this deliverance that the Lord refers to in the opening words of the Law: I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Lessons To Be Drawn From Jewish History
From all this the pastor should especially note that out of all the nations God chose only one whom He called His people, and by whom He willed to be known and worshipped; not that they were superior to other nations in justice or in numbers, and of this God Himself reminds the Hebrews, but rather because He wished, by the multiplication and aggrandisement of an inconsiderable and impoverished nation, to display to mankind His power and goodness.
Such having been their condition, he was closely united to them, and loved them, and Lord of heaven and earth as He was, He disdained not to be called their God. He desired that the other nations might thus be excited to emulation and that mankind, seeing the happiness of the Israelites, might embrace the worship of the true God. In the same way St. Paul says that by discussing the happiness of the Gentiles and their knowledge of the true God, he provoked to emulation those who were his own flesh.
The faithful should next be taught that God suffered the Hebrew Patriarchs to wander for so long a time, and their posterity to be oppressed and harassed by a galling servitude, in order to teach us that none are friends of God except those who are enemies of the world and pilgrims on earth, and that an entire detachment from the world gives us an easier access to the friendship of God. Further He wished that, being brought to His service, we should understand how much happier are they who serve God, than they who serve the world. Of this Scripture itself admonishes us: Yet they shall serve him, that they may know the difference between my service and the service of the kingdom of the earth.
(The pastor) should also explain that God delayed the fulfilment of His promise until after the lapse of more than four hundred years, in order that His people might be sustained by faith and hope; for, as we shall show when we come to explain the first Commandment, God wishes His children to depend on Him at all times and to repose all their confidence in His goodness.
The Time And Place In Which The Law Was Promulgated
Finally, the time and place, in which the people of Israel received this Law from God should be noted. They received it after they had been delivered from Egypt and had come into the wilderness; in order that, impressed by the memory of a recent benefit and awed by the dreariness of the place in which they journeyed, they might be the better disposed to receive the Law. For man becomes closely attached to those whose bounty he has experienced, and when he has lost all hope of assistance from his fellow-man, he then seeks refuge in the protection of God.
From all this we learn that the more detached the faithful are from the allurements of the world and the pleasures of sense, the more disposed they are to accept heavenly doctrines. As the Prophet has written: Whom shall he teach knowledge, and whom shall he make to understand the hearing? Them that are weaned from the milk, that are drawn away from the breasts.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT : "I am the lord thy god, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them. I am the lord thy god, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
"I am the Lord thy God"
The pastor should use his best endeavours to induce the faithful to keep continually in view these words: I am the Lord thy God. From them they will learn that their Lawgiver is none other than their Creator, by whom they were made and are preserved, and that they may truly repeat: He is the Lord our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. The frequent and earnest inculcation of these words will also serve to induce the faithful more readily to observe the Law and avoid sin.
"Who Brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the House of Bondage"
The next words, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, seem to relate solely to the Jews liberated from the bondage of Egypt. But if we consider the meaning of the salvation of the entire human race, those words are still more applicable to Christians, who are liberated by God not from the bondage of Egypt, but from the slavery of sin and the powers of darkness, and are translated into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Contemplating the greatness of this favour, Jeremias foretold: Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when it shall be said no more: The Lord liveth that brought forth. the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but: The Lord liveth that brought the children of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands to which I cast them out; and I will bring them again into their land which gave to their fathers. Behold, I send many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them, etc. And, indeed, our most indulgent Father has gathered together, through His beloved Son, His children that were dispersed, that being made free from sin and made the servants of justice, we may serve before him in holiness and justice all our days.'
Against every temptation, therefore, the faithful should arm themselves with these words of the Apostle as with a shield: Shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? We are no longer our own, we are His who died and rose again for us. He is the Lord our God who has purchased us for Himself at the price of His blood. Shall we then be any longer capable of sinning against the Lord our God, and crucifying Him again? Being made truly free, and with that liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, let us, as we heretofore yielded our members to serve injustice, henceforward yield them to serve justice to sanctification.
"Thou shalt not have Strange Gods before Me"
The pastor should teach that the first part of the Decalogue contains our duties towards God; the second part, our duties towards our neighbour. The reason (for this order) is that the services we render our neighbour are rendered for the sake of God; for then only do we love our neighbour as God commands when we love him for God's sake. The Commandments which regard God are those which were inscribed on the first table of the Law.
The Above Words Contain A Command And A Prohibition
(The pastor) should next show that the words just quoted contain a twofold precept, the one mandatory, the other prohibitory. When it is said: Thou shalt not have strange gods before me, it is equivalent to saying: Thou shalt worship me the true God; thou shalt not worship strange gods.
What They Command
The (mandatory part) contains a precept of faith, hope and charity. For, acknowledging God to be immovable, immutable, always the same, we rightly confess that He is faithful and entirely just. Hence in assenting to His oracles, we necessarily yield to Him all belief and obedience. Again, who can contemplate His omnipotence, His clemency, His willing beneficence, and not repose in Him all his hopes? Finally, who can behold the riches of His goodness and love, which He lavishes on us, and not love Him? Hence the exordium and the conclusion used by God in Scripture when giving His commands: I, the Lord.
What They Forbid
The (negative) part of this Commandment is comprised in these words: Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. This the Lawgiver subjoins, not because it is not sufficiently expressed in the affirmative part of the precept, which means: Thou shalt worship me, the only God, for if He is God, He is the only God; but on account of the blindness of many who of old professed to worship the true God and yet adored a multitude of gods. Of these there were many even among the Hebrews, whom Elias reproached with having halted between two sides, and also among the Samaritans, who worshipped the God of Israel and the gods of the nations.
Importance Of This Commandment
After this it should be added that this is the first and principal Commandment, not only in order, but also in its nature, dignity and excellence. God is entitled to infinitely greater love and obedience from us than any lord or king. He created us, He governs us, He nurtured us even in the womb, brought us into the world, and still supplies us with all the necessaries of life and maintenance.
Sins Against This Commandment
Against this Commandment all those sin who have not faith. hope and charity. such sinners are very numerous, for they include all who fall into heresy, who reject what holy mother the Church proposes for our belief, who give credit to dreams. fortune-telling, and such illusions; those who, despairing of salvation, trust not in the goodness of God; and those who rely solely on wealth, or health and strength of body. But these matters are developed more at length in treatises on sins and vices.
Veneration And Invocation Of Angels And Saints Not Forbidden By This Commandment
In explanation of this Commandment it should be accurately taught that the veneration and invocation of holy Angels and of the blessed who now enjoy the glory of heaven, and likewise the honour which the Catholic Church has always paid even to the bodies and ashes of the Saints, are not forbidden by this Commandment. If a king ordered that no one else should set himself up as king, or accept the honours due to the royal person, who would be so foolish as to infer that the sovereign was unwilling that suitable honour and respect should be paid to his magistrates? Now although Christians follow the example set by the Saints of the Old Law, and are said to adore the Angels, yet they do not give to Angels that honour which is due to God alone.
And if we sometimes read that Angels refused to be worshipped by men, we are to know that they did so because the worship which they refused to accept was the honour due to God alone.
It Is Lawful To Honour And Invoke The Angels
The Holy Spirit who says: Honour and glory to God alone, commands us also to honour our parents and elders; and the holy men who adored one God only are also said in Scripture to have adored, that is, supplicated and venerated kings. If then kings, by whose agency God governs the world, are so highly honoured, shall it be deemed unlawful to honour those angelic spirits whom God has been pleased to constitute His ministers, whose services He makes use of not only in the government of His Church, but also of the universe, by whose aid, although we see them not, we are every day delivered from the greatest dangers of soul and body ? Are they not worthy of far greater honour, since their dignity so far surpasses that of kings?
Add to this their love towards us, which, as we easily see from Scripture, prompts them to pour out their prayers for those countries over which they are placed, as well as for us whose guardians they are, and whose prayers and tears they present before the throne of God Hence our Lord admonishes us in the Gospel not to offend the little ones because their angels in heaven always see the face of their Father who is in heaven.
Their Intercession, therefore, we ought to invoke, because they always see tile face of God, and are constituted by Him the willing advocates of our salvation. The Scriptures bear witness to such invocation. Jacob entreated the Angel with whom he wrestled to bless him; nay, he even compelled him, declaring that he would not let him go until he had blessed him. And not only did he invoke the blessing of the Angel whom he saw, but also of him whom he saw not. The angel, said he, who delivers me from all evils, bless these boys.
It Is Lawful To Honour And Invoke The Saints
From all this we may conclude that to honour the Saints who nave slept in the Lord, to invoke them, and to venerate their sacred relics and ashes, far from diminishing, tends considerably to increase the glory of God, in proportion as man's hope is thus animated and fortified, and he himself encouraged to imitate the Saints.
This is a practice which is also supported by the authority' of the second Council of Nice, the Councils of Gangra, and of Trent, and by the testimony of the Fathers. In order, however, that the pastor may be the better prepared to meet the objections of those who deny this doctrine, he should consult particularly St. Jerome against Vigilantius and St. Damascene. To the teaching of these Fathers should be added as a consideration of prime importance that the practice was received from the Apostles, and has always been retained and preserved in the Church of God.
But who can desire a stronger or more convincing proof than that which is supplied by the admirable praises given in Scripture to the Saints? For there are not wanting eulogies which God Himself pronounced on some of the Saints. If, then, Holy Writ celebrates their praises, why should not men show them singular honour ?
A stronger claim which the Saints have to be honoured and invoked is that they constantly pray for our salvation and obtain for us by their merits and influence many blessings from God. If there is joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner, will not the citizens of heaven assist those who repent? When they are invoked, will they not obtain for us the pardon of sins, and the grace of God ?
Should it be said, as some say, that the patronage of the Saints is unnecessary, because God hears our prayers without the intervention of a mediator, this impious assertion is easily met by the observation of St. Augustine: There are many things which God does not grant without a mediator and intercessor. This is confirmed by the well-known examples of Abimelech and the friends of Job who were pardoned only through the prayers of Abraham and of Job
Should it be alleged that to recur to the patronage and intercession of the Saints argues want or weakness of faith, what will (the objectors) answer regarding the centurion whose faith was highly eulogised by the Lord God Himself, despite the fact that he had sent to the Redeemer the ancients of the Jews, to intercede for his sick servant?
True, there is but one Mediator, Christ the Lord, who alone has reconciled us to the heavenly Father through His blood, and who, having obtained eternal redemption, and having entered once into the holies, ceases not to intercede for us. But it by no means follows that it is therefore unlawful to have recourse to the intercession of the Saints. If, because we have one Mediator Jesus Christ, it were unlawful to ask the intercession of the Saints, the Apostle would never have recommended himself with so much earnestness to the prayers of his brethren on earth. For the prayers of the living would lessen the glory and dignity of Christ's Mediatorship not less than the intercession of the Saints in heaven.
The Honour And Invocation Of Saints Is Approved By Miracles
But who would not be convinced of the honour due the Saints and of the help they give us by the wonders wrought at their tombs? Diseased eyes, hands, and other members are restored to health; the dead are raised to life, and demons are expelled from the bodies of men ! These are facts which St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, most unexceptionable witnesses, declare in their writings, not that they heard, as many did, nor that they read, as did man- very reliable men, but that they saw.
But why multiply proofs? If the clothes, the handkerchiefs, and even the very shadows of the Saints, while yet on earth, banished disease and restored health, who will have the hardihood to deny that God can still work the same wonders by the holy ashes, the bones and other relics of the Saints ? Of this we have a proof in the restoration to life of the dead body which was accidentally let down into the grave of Eliseus, and which, on touching the body (of the Prophet), was instantly restored to life.
"Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not adore them nor serve them"
Some, supposing these words which come next in order to constitute a distinct precept, reduce the ninth and tenth Commandments to one. St. Augustine, on the contrary, considering the last two to be distinct Commandments, makes the words just quoted a part of the first Commandment. His division is much approved in the Church, and hence we willingly adopt it. Furthermore, a very good reason for this arrangement at once suggests itself. It was fitting that to the first Commandment should be added the rewards or punishments entailed by each one of the Commandments.
The Above Words Do Not Forbid All Images
Let no one think that this Commandment entirely forbids the arts of painting, engraving or sculpture. The Scriptures inform us that God Himself commanded to be made images of Cherubim, and also the brazen serpent. The interpretation, therefore, at which we must arrive, is that images are prohibited only inasmuch as they are used as deities to receive adoration, and so to injure the true worship of God.
They Forbid Idols And Representations Of The Deity
As far as this Commandment is concerned, it is clear that there are two chief ways in which God's majesty can be seriously outraged. The first way is by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them, as the Gentiles did, who placed their hopes in idols, and whose idolatry the Scriptures frequently condemn. The other way is by attempting to form a representation of the Deity, as if He were visible to mortal eyes, or could be reproduced by colours or figures. Who, says Damascene, can represent God, invisible, as He is, incorporeal, uncircumscribed by limits, and incapable of being reproduced under any shape. This subject is treated more at large in the second Council of Nice. Rightly, then, did the Apostles say (of the Gentiles): They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things; for they worshipped all these things as God, seeing that they made the images of these things to represent Him. Hence the Israelites, when they exclaimed before the image of the calf: These are thy gods, Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, are denounced as idolaters, because they changed their glory into the likeness of a calf that eateth grass.
When, therefore, the Lord had forbidden the worship of strange gods, He also forbade the making of an image of the Deity from brass or other materials, in order thus utterly to do away with idolatry. It is this that Isaias declares when he asks: To whom then have you likened God, or what image will you make for hill? That this is the meaning of the prohibition contained in the Commandment is proved, not only from the writings of the holy Fathers, who, as may be seen in the seventh General Council, give to it this interpretation: but is also clearly declared in these words of Deuteronomy, by which Moses sought to withdraw the people from the worship of idols: You saw not, he says, any similitude in the day that the Lord spoke to you in Horeb, from the midst of the fire. These words this wisest of legislators spoke, lest through error of any sort, they should make an image of the Deity, and transfer to any thing created, the honour due to God.
They Do Not Forbid Representations Of The Divine Persons And Angels
To represent the Persons of the Holy Trinity by certain forms under which they appeared in the Old and New Testaments no one should deem contrary to religion or the law of God. For who can be so ignorant as to believe that such forms are representations of the Deity? -- forms, as the pastor should teach, which only express some attribute or action ascribed to God. Thus when from the description of Daniel God is painted as the Ancient of days, seated on a throne, with the books opened before hint, the eternity of God is represented and also the infinite wisdom, by which He sees and judges all the thoughts and actions of men.'
Angels, also, are represented under human form and with wings to give us to understand that they are actuated by benevolent feelings towards mankind, and are always prepared to execute the Lord's commands; for they are all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.
What attributes of the Holy Ghost are represented under the forms of a dove, and of tongues of fire, in the Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, is a matter too well known to require lengthy explanation.
They Do Not Forbid Images Of Christ And The Saints
But to make and honour the images of Christ our Lord, of His holy and virginal Mother, and of the Saints, all of whom were clothed with human nature and appeared in human form, is not only not forbidden by this Commandment, but has always been deemed a holy practice and a most sure indication of gratitude. This position is confirmed by the monuments of the Apostolic age, the General Councils of the Church, and the writings of so many among the Fathers, eminent alike for sanctity and learning, all of whom are of one accord upon the subject.
Usefulness Of Sacred Images
But the pastor should not content himself with showing that it is lawful to have images in churches, and to pay them honour and respect, since this respect is referred to their prototypes. He should also show that the uninterrupted observance of this practice down to the present day has been attended with great advantage to the faithful, as may be seen in the work of Damascene on images, and in the seventh General Council, the second of Nice.
But as the enemy of mankind, by his wiles and deceits, seeks to pervert even the most holy institutions, should the faithful happen at all to offend in this particular, the pastor, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Trent's should use every exertion in his power to correct such an abuse, and, if necessary, explain the decree itself to the people.
He will also inform the unlettered and those who may be ignorant of the use of images, that they are intended to instruct in the history of the Old and New Testaments, and to revive from time to time their memory; that thus, moved by the contemplation of heavenly things, we may be the more ardently inflamed to adore and love God Himself. He should, also, point out that the images of the Saints are placed in churches, not only to be honoured, but also that they may admonish us by their examples to imitate their lives and virtues.
"I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
In this concluding clause of this Commandment two things occur which demand careful exposition. The first is, that while, on account of the enormous guilt incurred by the violation of the first Commandment, and the propensity of man towards its violation, the punishment is properly indicated in this place, it is also attached to all the other Commandments.
Every law enforces its observance by rewards and punishments; and hence the frequent and numerous promises of God in Sacred Scripture. To omit those that we meet almost on every page of the Old Testament, it is written in the Gospel: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments; and again: He that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; and also: Every tree that doth not yield good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire; Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be guilty of the judgment; If you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.
How The Sanction Contained In The Above Words Should Be Proposed
The other observation is that this concluding part (of the Commandment) is to be proposed in a very different manner to the spiritual and to the carnal Christian. To the spiritual who is animated by the Spirit of God, and who yields to Him a willing and cheerful obedience, it is, in some sort, glad tidings and a strong proof of the divine goodness towards him. In it he recognises the care of his most loving God, who, now by rewards, now by punishments, almost compels His creatures to adore and worship Him. The spiritual man acknowledges the infinite goodness of God towards himself in vouchsafing to issue His commands to him and to make use of his service to the glory of the divine name. And not only does he acknowledge the divine goodness, he also cherishes a strong hope that when God commands what He pleases, He will also give strength to fulfil hat He commands.
But to the carnal man, who is not yet freed from a servile spirit and who abstains from sin more through fear of punishment than love of virtue, (this sanction) of the divine law, which closes each of the Commandments, is burdensome and severe. Wherefore they should be encouraged by pious exhortation, and led by the hand, as it were, in the way of the law. The pastor, therefore, as often as he has occasion to explain any of the Commandments should keep this in view.
But both the carnal and the spiritual should be spurred on, especially by two considerations which are contained in this concluding clause, and are highly calculated to enforce obedience to the divine law.
The one is that God is called the strong. That appellation needs to be fully expounded; because the flesh, unappalled by the terrors of the divine menaces, frequently indulges in the foolish expectation of escaping, in one way or another, God's wrath and threatened punishment. But when one is deeply impressed with the conviction that God is the strong, he will exclaim with the great David: Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I pee from thy face?
The flesh, also, distrusting the promises of God, sometimes magnifies the power of the enemy to such an extent, as to believe itself unable to withstand his assaults; while, on the contrary, a firm and unshaken faith, which wavers not, but relies confidently on the strength and power of God, animates and confirms man. For it says: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The second spur is the jealousy of God. Man is sometimes tempted to think that God takes no interest in human affairs, and does not even care whether we observe or neglect His law. This error is the source of the great disorders of life. But when we believe that God is a jealous God, the thought easily keeps us within the limits of our duty.
The jealousy attributed to God does not, however, imply disturbance of mind; it is that divine love and charity by which God will suffer no human creature to be unfaithful to Him with impunity, and which destroys all those who are disloyal to Him. The jealousy of God, therefore, is the most tranquil and impartial justice, which repudiates as an adulteress the soul corrupted by. erroneous opinions and criminal passions.
This jealousy of God, since it shows His boundless and incomprehensible goodness towards us, we find most sweet and pleasant. Among men there is no love more ardent, no greater or more intimate tie, than that of those who are united by marriage. Hence when God frequently compares Himself to a spouse or husband and calls Himself a jealous God, He shows the excess of His love towards us.
Zeal In The Service Of God
The pastor, therefore, should here teach that men should be so warmly interested in promoting the worship and honour of God as to be said rather to be jealous of Him than to love Him, in imitation of Him who says of Himself: With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts, or rather of Christ Himself, who says: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.
"Visiting The Iniquity," Etc.
Concerning the threat contained in this Commandment it should be explained that God will not suffer sinners to go unpunished, but will chastise them as a father, or punish them with the rigour and severity of a judge. This was elsewhere explained by Moses when he said: Thou shalt know that the Lord thy God is a strong and faithful God, keeping his covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments, unto a thousand generations; and repaying forthwith them that hate him. You will not, says Josue, be able to serve the Lord; for he is a holy God, and mighty and jealous, and will not forgive your wickedness and sins. If you leave the Lord and serve strange gods, he will turn and will afflict you, and will destroy you.
The faithful are also to be taught that the punishments here threatened await the third and fourth generation of the impious and wicked; not that the children are always chastised for the sins of their ancestors, but that while these and their children may go unpunished, their posterity shall not all escape the wrath and vengeance of the Almighty. This happened in the case of King Josias. God had spared him for his singular piety, and allowed him to be gathered to the tomb of his fathers in peace, that his eyes might not behold the evils of the times that were to befall Juda and Jerusalem, on account of the wickedness of his grandfather Manasses; yet, after his death the divine vengeance so overtook his posterity that even the children of Josias were not spared.
How the words of this Commandment are not at variance with the statement of the Prophet: The soul that sins shall die, is clearly shown by the authority of St. Gregory, supported by the testimony of all the ancient Fathers. Whoever, he says, follows the bad example of a wicked father is also bound by his sins; but he who does not follow the example of his father, shall not at all suffer for the sins of the father Hence it follows that a wicked son, who dreads not to add his own malice to the vices of his father, by which he knows the divine wrath to have been excited, pays the penalty not only of his own sins, but also of those of his father. It is just that he who dreads not to walk in the footsteps of a wicked father, in presence of a rigorous judge, should be compelled in the present life to expiate the crimes of his wicked parent.
"And Showing Mercy, Etc.
The pastor should next observe that the goodness and mercy of God far exceed His justice. He is angry to the third and fourth generation; but He bestows His mercy on thousands.
"Of Them That Hate Me"
The words of them that hate me display the grievousness of sin. What more wicked, what more detestable than to hate God, the supreme goodness and sovereign truth? This, however, is the crime of all sinners; for as he that hath God's commandments and keepeth them, loveth God, so he who despises His law and violates His Commandments, is justly said to hate God.
Of Them That Love Me
The concluding words: And to them that love me, point out the manner and motive of observing the law. Those who obey the law of God must needs be influenced in its observance by the same love and charity which they bear to God, a principle which should be brought to mind in the instructions on all the other Commandments.
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT : "Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain"
Why This Commandment Is Distinct From The First
The second Commandment of the divine law is necessarily comprised in the first, which commands us to worship God in piety and holiness For he who requires that honour be paid him, also requires that he be spoken of with reverence, and must forbid the contrary, as is clearly shown by these words of the Lord in Malachy: The son honoureth the father and the servant his master if then I be a father, where is my honour?
However, on account of the importance of the obligation, God wished to make the law, which commands His own divine and most holy name to be honoured, a distinct Commandment, expressed in the clearest and simplest terms.
Importance Of Instruction On This Commandment
The above observation should strongly convince the pastor that on this point it is not enough to speak in general terms; that the importance of the subject is such as to require it to be dwelt upon at considerable length, and to be explained to the faithful in all its bearings with distinctness, clearness and accuracy.
This diligence cannot be deemed superfluous, since there are not wanting those who are so blinded by the darkness of error as not to dread to blaspheme His name, whom the Angels glorify Men are not deterred by the Commandment laid down from shamelessly and daringly outraging Him divine Majesty every day, or rather every hour and moment of the day Who is ignorant that every assertion is accompanied with an oath and teems with curses and imprecations? To such lengths has this impiety been carried, that there is scarcely anyone who buys, or sells, or transacts business of any sort, without having recourse to swearing, and who, even in matters the most unimportant and trivial, does not profane the most holy name of God thousands of times.
It therefore becomes more imperative on the pastor not to neglect, carefully and frequently, to admonish the faithful how grievous and detestable is this crime.
Positive Part of this Commandment
But in the exposition of this Commandment it should first be shown that besides a negative, it also contains a positive precept, commanding the performance of a duty To each of these a separate explanation should be given; and for the sake of easier exposition what the Commandment requires should be first set forth, and then what it forbids It commands us to honour the name of God, and to swear by it with reverence It prohibits us to contemn the divine name, to take it in vain, or swear by it falsely, unnecessarily or rashly.
In the part which commands us to honour the name of God, the command, as the pastor should show the faithful, is not directed to the letters or syllables of which that name is composed, or in any respect to the mere name; but to the meaning of a word used to express the Omnipotent and Eternal Majesty of the Godhead, Trinity in Unity Hence we easily infer the superstition of those among the Jews who, while they hesitated not to write, dared not to pronounce the name of God, as if the divine power consisted in the four letters, and not in the signification.
Although this Commandment uses the singular number, Thou shalt not take the name of God, this is not to be understood to refer to any one name, but to every name by which God is generally designated For He is called by many names, such as the Lord, the Almighty, the Lord of hosts, the King of kings, the Strong, and by others of similar nature, which we meet in Scripture and which are all entitled to the same and equal veneration
Various Ways Of Honouring God's Name
It should next be taught how due honour is to be given to the name of God Christians, whose tongues should constantly celebrate the divine praises, are not to be ignorant of a matter so important, indeed, most necessary to salvation The name of God may be honoured in a variety of ways; but all may be reduced to those that follow.
Public Profession Of Faith
In the first place, God's name is honoured when we publicly and confidently confess Him to be our Lord and our God; and when we acknowledge and also proclaim Christ to be the author of our salvation.
Respect For The Word Of God
(It is also honoured) when we pay a religious attention to the word of God, which announces to us His will; make it the subject of our constant meditation; and strive by reading or hearing it, according to our respective capacities and conditions of life, to become acquainted with it.
Praise And Thanksgiving
Again, we honour and venerate the name of God, when, from a sense of religious duty, we celebrate His praises, and under all circumstances, whether prosperous or adverse, return Him unbounded thanks Thus spoke the Prophet Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee. Among the Psalms of David there are many, in which, animated with singular piety towards God, he chants in sweetest strains the divine praises There is also the example of the admirable patience of Job, who, when visited with the heaviest and most appalling calamities, never ceased, with lofty and unconquered soul, to give praise to God When, therefore, we labour under affliction of mind or body, when oppressed by misery and misfortune, let us instantly direct all our thoughts, and all the powers of our souls, to the praises of God, saying with Job Blessed be the name of the Lord.
The name of God is not less honoured when we confidently invoke His assistance, either to relieve us from our afflictions, or to give us constancy and strength to endure them with fortitude This is in accordance with the Lord's own wishes Call upon me, He says, in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. We have illustrious examples of such supplications in many passages of Scripture, and especially in the sixteenth, forty-third, and one hundred and eighteenth Psalms.
Finally, we honour the name of God when we solemnly call upon Him to witness the truth of what we assert This mode of honouring God's name differs much from those already- enumerated Those means are in their own nature so good, so desirable, that our days and nights could not be more happily or more holily spent than in such practices of piety I will bless the Lord at all times, says David, his praise shall be always in my mouth. On the other hand, although oaths are in themselves good, their frequent use is by no means praiseworthy.
The reason of this difference is that oaths have been instituted only as remedies to human frailty, and a necessary means of establishing the truth of what we assert As it is inexpedient to have recourse to medicine unless, when it becomes necessary, and as its frequent use is harmful; so with regard to oaths, it is not profitable to have recourse to them, unless there is a weighty and just cause; and frequent recurrence to them, far from being advantageous, is on the contrary highly prejudicial Hence the excellent observation of St Chrysostom Oaths were introduced among men, not at the beginning of the world, but long after; when vice had spread far and wide over the earth; when all things were disturbed and universal confusion reigned out; when, to complete human depravity, almost all mankind debased the dignity of their nature by the degrading service of idols. Then at length it was that the custom of oaths was introduced. For the perfidy and wickedness of men was so great that it was with difficulty that anyone could be induced to credit the assertion of another, and they began to call on God as a witness.
Meaning Of An Oath
Since in explaining this part of the Commandment the chief object is to teach the faithful how to render an oath reverential and holy, it is first to be observed, that to swear, whatever the form of words may be, is nothing else than to call God to witness; thus to say, God is witness, and By God, mean one and the same thing.
To swear by creatures, such as the holy Gospels, the cross, the names or relics of the Saints, and so on, in order to prove our statements, is also to take an oath Of themselves, it is true, such objects give no weight or authority to an oath; it is God Himself who does this, whose divine majesty shines forth in them Hence to swear by the Gospel is to swear by God Himself, whose truth is contained and revealed in the Gospel (This holds equally true with regard to those who swear) by the Saints, who are the temples of God, who believed the truth of His Gospel, were faithful in its observance, and spread it far and wide among the nations and peoples.
This is also true of oaths uttered by way of execration, such as that of St Paul I call God to witness upon my soul. By this form of oath one submits himself to God's judgment, who is the avenger of falsehood We do not, however, deny that some of these forms may be used without constituting an oath; but even in such cases it will be found useful to observe what has been said with regard to an oath, and to conform exactly to the same rule and standard.
Oaths Are Affirmatory And Promissory
Oaths are of two kinds The first is an affirmatory oath, and is taken when we religiously affirm anything, past or present. Such was the affirmation of the Apostle in his Epistle to the Galatians: Behold, before God, I lie not. The second kind, to which comminations may be reduced, is called promissory It looks to the future, and is taken when we promise and affirm for certain that such or such a thing will be done Such was the oath of David, who, swearing by the Lord his God, promised to Bethsabee his wife that her son Solomon should be heir to his kingdom and successor to his throne.
Conditions Of A Lawful Oath
Although to constitute an oath it is sufficient to call God to witness, yet to constitute a holy and just oath many other conditions are required, which should be carefully explained These, as St Jerome observes, are briefly enumerated in the words of Jeremias Thou shalt swear: as the Lord liveth, in truth and in judgment and in justice, words which briefly sum up all the conditions that constitute the perfection of an oath, namely, truth, judgment, justice.
First Condition: Truth
Truth, then, holds the first place in an oath What is asserted must be true and he who swears must believe what he swears to be true, being influenced not by rash judgment or mere conjecture, but by solid reasons.
Truth is a condition not less necessary in a promissory than in an affirmatory oath He who promises must be disposed to perform and fulfil his promise at the appointed time As no conscientious man will promise to do what he considers opposed to the most holy Commandments and will of God; so, having promised and sworn to do what is lawful, he will never fail to adhere to his engagement, unless, perhaps by a change of circumstances it should happen that, if he wished to keep faith and observe his promises, he must incur the displeasure and enmity of God That truth is necessary to an oath David also declares in these words: He that sweareth to his neighbour, and deceiveth not.
Second Condition: Judgment
The second condition of an oath is judgment. An oath is not to be taken rashly and inconsiderately, but after deliberation and reflection. When about to take an oath, therefore, one should first consider whether he is obliged to take it, and should weigh well the whole case, reflecting whether it seems to call for an oath. Many other circumstances of time, place, etc., are also to be taken into consideration; and one should not be influenced by love or hatred, or any other passion, but by the nature and necessity of the case.
Unless this careful consideration and reflection precede, an oath must be rash and hasty; and of this character are the irreligious affirmations of those, who, on the most unimportant and trifling occasions, swear without thought or reason from the influence of bad habit alone. This we see practiced daily everywhere among buyers and sellers. The latter, to sell at the highest price, the former to purchase at the cheapest rate, make no scruple to strengthen with an oath their praise or dispraise of the goods on sale.
Since, therefore, judgment and prudence are necessary, and since children are not able, on account of their tender years, to understand and judge accurately, Pope St. Cornelius decreed that an oath should not be administered to children before puberty, that is, before their fourteenth year.
Third Condition: Justice
The last condition (of an oath) is justice, which is especially requisite in promissory oaths. Hence, if a person swear to do what is unjust or unlawful, he sins by taking the oath, and adds sin to sin by executing his promise. Of this the Gospel supplies an example. King Herod, bound by a rash oath, gave to a dancing girl the head of John the Baptist as a reward for her dancing. Such was also the oath taken by the Jews, who, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, bound themselves by oath not to eat, until they had killed Paul.
Lawfulness Of Oaths
These explanations having been given, there can be no doubt that they who observe the above conditions and who guard their oaths with these qualities as with bulwarks, may swear with a safe conscience.
This is easily established by many proofs. For the law of God, which is pure and holy, commands: Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt serve him only, and thou shalt swear by his name. All they, writes David, shall be praised that swear by him.
The Scriptures also inform us that the most holy Apostles, the lights of the Church, sometimes made use of oaths, as appears from the Epistles of the Apostle.
Even the Angels sometimes swear. The angel, writes St. John in the Apocalypse, swore by him who lives for ever.
Nay, God Himself, the Lord of Angels, swears, and, as we read in many passages of the Old Testament, has confirmed His. promises with an oath. This He did to Abraham and to David. Of the oath sworn by God David says: The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
In fact, if we consider the whole matter attentively, and examine the origin and purpose of an oath, it can be no difficult matter to explain the reasons why it is a laudable act.
An oath has its origin in faith, by which men believe God to be the author of all truth, who can never deceive others nor be deceived, to whose eyes all things are naked and open, who, in fine, superintends all human affairs with an admirable providence, and governs the world. Filled with this faith we appeal to God as a witness of the truth, as a witness whom it would be wicked and impious to distrust.
With regard to the end of an oath, its scope and intent is to establish the justice and innocence of man, and to terminate disputes and contests. This is the doctrine of the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews.
An Objection Against Oaths
Nor does this doctrine at all clash with these words of the Redeemer, recorded in St. Matthew: You have heard that it was said to them of old: "Thou shalt not foreswear thyself, but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord"; but I say to you not to swear at all; neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; neither by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king; neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be "yea, yea"; "no, no"; and that which is over and above these is of evil.
It cannot be asserted that these words condemn oaths universally and under all circumstances, since we have already seen that the Apostles and our Lord Himself made frequent use of them. The object of our Lord was rather to reprove the perverse opinion of the Jews, who had persuaded themselves that the only thing to be avoided in an oath was a lie. Hence in matters the most trivial and unimportant they did not hesitate to make frequent use of oaths, and to exact them from others. This practice the Redeemer condemns and reprobates, and teaches that an oath is never to be taken unless necessity require it. For oaths have been instituted on account of human frailty. They are really the outcome of evil, being a sign either of the inconstancy of him who takes them, or of the obstinacy of him who refuses to believe without them. However, an oath can be justified by necessity.
When our Lord says: Let your speech be "yea, yea"; "no, no," He evidently forbids the habit of swearing in familiar conversation and on trivial matters. He therefore admonishes us particularly against being too ready and willing to swear; and this should be carefully explained and impressed on the minds of the faithful. That countless evils grow out of the unrestrained habit of swearing is proved by the evidence of Scripture, and the testimony of the most holy Fathers. Thus we read in Ecclesiasticus: Let not thy mouth be accustomed to swearing, for in it there are many falls; and again: A man that sweareth much shall be filled with iniquity, and a scourge shall not depart from his house. In the works of St. Basil and St. Augustine against lying, much more can be found on this subject.
Negative Part of this Commandment
So far we have considered what this Commandment requires. It now remains to speak of what it prohibits; namely, to take the name of God in vain. It is clear that he who swears rashly and without deliberation commits a grave sin. That this is a most serious sin is declared by the words: Thou shalt not take the name of thy God in vain, which seem to assign the reason why this crime is so wicked and heinous; namely, that it derogates from the majesty of Him whom we profess to recognise as our Lord and our God. This Commandment, therefore, forbids to swear falsely, because he who does not shrink from so great a crime as to appeal to God to witness falsehood, offers a grievous Injury to God, charging Him either with ignorance, as though the truth of any matter could be unknown to Him, or with malice and dishonesty, as though God could bear testimony to falsehood.
Various Ways In Which Cod's Name Is Dishonoured: False Oaths
Among false swearers are to be numbered not only those who affirm as true what they know to be false, but also those who swear to what is really true, believing it to be false. For since the essence of a lie consists in speaking contrary to one's belief and conviction, these persons are evidently guilty of a lie, and of perjury.
On the same principle, he who swears to that which he thinks to be true, but which is really false, also incurs the guilt of perjury, unless he has used proper care and diligence to arrive at a full knowledge of the matter. Although he-swears according to his belief, he nevertheless sins against this Commandment.
Again, he who binds himself by oath to the performance of anything, not intending to fulfil his promise, or, having had the intention, neglect its performance, guilty of the same sin. This equally applies to those who, having bound themselves to God by vow, neglect its fulfilment.
This Commandment is also violated, if justice, which is one of the three conditions of an oath, be wanting. Hence he who swears to commit a mortal sin, for example, to perpetrate murder, violates this Commandment, even though he speak seriously and from his heart, and his oath possess what we before pointed out as the first condition of every oath, that is, truth.
To these are to be added oaths sworn through a sort of contempt, such as an oath not to observe the Evangelical counsels, such as celibacy and poverty. None, it is true, are obliged to embrace these divine counsels, but by swearing not to observe them, one contemns and despises them.
This Commandment is also sinned against, and judgment is violated when one swears to what is true and what he believes to be true if his motives are light conjectures and far-fetched reasons. For, notwithstanding its truth, such an oath is not unmixed with a sort of falsehood, seeing that he who swears with such indifference exposes himself to extreme danger of perjury.
Oaths By False Gods
To swear by false gods is likewise to swear falsely. What more opposed to truth than to appeal to lying and false deities as to the true God?
Scripture when it prohibits perjury, says: Thou shalt not profane the name of thy God, thereby forbidding all irreverence towards all other things to which, in accordance with this Commandment, reverence is due. Of this nature is the Word of God, the majesty of which has been revered not only by the pious, but also sometimes by the impious, as is narrated in Judges of Eglon, King of the Moabites.
But he who, to support heresy and the teaching of the wicked. distorts the Sacred Scriptures from their genuine and true meaning, is guilty of the greatest injury to the Word of God; and against this crime we are warned by these words of the Prince of the Apostles: There are certain things hard to be understood. which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
It is also a foul and shameful contamination of the Scripture, that wicked men pervert the words and sentences which it contains, and which should be honoured with all reverence, turning them to profane purposes, such as scurrility, fable, vanity, flattery, detraction, divination, satire and the like -- crimes which the Council of Trent commands to be severely punished.
Neglect Of Prayer
In the next place, as they honour God who, in their affliction implore His help, so they, who do not invoke His aid, deny Him due honour; and these David rebukes when he says: They have not called upon the Lord, they trembled for fear where there was no fear.
Still more enormous is the guilt of those who, with impure and defiled lips, dare to curse or blaspheme the holy name of God-that name which is to be blessed and praised above measure by all creatures, or even the names of the Saints who reign with Him in glory.' So atrocious and horrible is this crime that the Sacred Scriptures, sometimes when speaking of blasphemy use the word blessing.
Sanction of this Commandment
As, however, the dread of punishment has often a powerful effect in checking the tendency to sin, the pastor, in order the more effectively to move the minds of men and the more easily to induce to an observance of this Commandment, should diligently explain the remaining words, which are, as it were, its appendix: For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord his God in vain.
In the first place (the pastor) should teach that with very good reason has God joined threats to this Commandment. From this is understood both the grievousness of sin and the goodness of God toward us, since far from rejoicing in man's destruction, He deters us by these salutary threats from incurring His anger, doubtless in order that we may experience His kindness rather than His wrath. The pastor should urge and insist on this consideration with greatest earnestness. in order that the faithful may be made sensible of the grievousness of the crime, may detest it still more, and may employ increased care and caution to avoid its commission.
He should also observe how prone men are to this sin, since it was not sufficient to give the command, but also necessary to accompany it with threats. The advantages to be derived from this thought are indeed incredible; for as nothing is more injurious than a listless security, so the knowledge of our own weakness is most profitable.
He should next show that God has appointed no particular punishment. The threat is general; it declares that whoever is guilty of this crime shall not escape unpunished. The various chastisements, therefore, with which we are every day visited, should warn us against this sin. It is easy to conjecture that men are afflicted with heavy calamities because they violate this Commandment; and if these things are called to their attention, it is likely that they will be more careful for the future.
Deterred, therefore, by a holy dread, the faithful should use every exertion to avoid this sin. If for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account on the day of judgment, what shall we say of those heinous crimes which involve great contempt of the divine name?
THIRD COMMANDMENT : "Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy works; but on the seventh day is the sabbath of the lord thy god; thou shalt do no work on it, neither thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the lord blessed the seventh day and sanctified it."
Reasons For This Commandment
This Commandment of the Law rightly and in due order prescribes the external worship which we owe to God; for it is, as it were, a consequence of the preceding Commandment. For if we sincerely and devoutly worship God, guided by the faith and hope we have in Him, we cannot but honour Him with external worship and thanksgiving. Now since we cannot easily discharge these duties while occupied in worldly affairs, a certain fixed time has been set aside so that it may be conveniently performed.
Importance Of Instruction On This Commandment
The observance of this Commandment is attended with wondrous fruit and advantage. Hence it is of the highest importance for the pastor to use the utmost diligence in its exposition. The word Remembers with which the Commandment commences, must animate him to zeal in this matter; for if the faithful are bound to remember this Commandment, it becomes the duty of the pastor to recall it frequently to their minds in exhortation and instruction.
The importance of its observance for the faithful may be inferred from the consideration that those who carefully comply with it are more easily induced to keep all the other Commandments. For among the other works which are necessary on holydays, the faithful are bound to assemble in the church to hear the Word of God. When they have thus learned the divine justifications, they will be disposed to observe, with their whole heart, the law of the Lord. Hence the sanctification and observance of the Sabbath is very often commanded in Scripture, as may be seen in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and in the prophecies of Isaias, Jeremias," and Ezechiel, all of which contain this precept on the observance of the Sabbath.
Rulers and magistrates should be admonished and exhorted to lend the sanction and support of their authority to the pastors of the Church, particularly in upholding and extending the worship of God, and in commanding obedience to the injunctions of the priests.
How The Third Differs From The Other Commandments
With regard to the exposition of this Commandment, the faithful are carefully to be taught how it agrees with, and how it differs from the others, in order that they may understand why we observe and keep holy not Saturday but Sunday.
The point of difference is evident. The other Commandments of the Decalogue are precepts of the natural law, obligatory at all times and unalterable. Hence, after the abrogation of the Law of Moses, all the Commandments contained in the two tables are observed by Christians, not indeed because their observance is commanded by Moses, but because they are in conformity with nature which dictates obedience to them.
This Commandment about the observance of the Sabbath, on the other hand, considered as to the time appointed for its fulfilment, is not fixed and unalterable, but susceptible of change, and belongs not to the moral, but the ceremonial law. Neither is it a principle of the natural law; we are not instructed by nature to give external worship to God on that day, rather than on any other. And in fact the Sabbath was kept holy only from the time of the liberation of the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh. The observance of the Sabbath was to be abrogated at the same time as the other Hebrew rites and ceremonies, that is, at the death of Christ. Having been, as it were, images which foreshadowed the light and the truth, these ceremonies were to disappear at the coming of that light and truth, which is Jesus Christ. Hence St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, when reproving the observers of the Mosaic rites, says: You observe days and months and times and years; I am afraid of you lest perhaps I have laboured in vain amongst you. And he writes to the same effect to the Colossians.
So much regarding the difference (between this and the other Commandments) .
How The Third Is Like The Other Commandments
This Commandment is like the others, not in so far as it is a precept of the ceremonial law, but only as it is a natural and moral precept. The worship of God and the practice of religion, which it comprises, have the natural law for their basis. Nature prompts us to give some time to the worship of God. This is demonstrated by the fact that we find among all nations public festivals consecrated to the solemnities of religion and divine worship.
As nature requires some time to be given to necessary functions of the body, to sleep, repose and the like, so she also requires that some time be devoted to the mind, to refresh itself by the contemplation of God. Hence, since some time should be devoted to the worship of the Deity and to the practice of religion, this (Commandment) doubtless forms part of the moral law.
The Jewish Sabbath Changed To Sunday By The Apostles
The Apostles therefore resolved to consecrate the first day of the week to the divine worship, and called it the Lord's day. St. John in the Apocalypse makes mention of the Lord's day; and the Apostle commands collections to be made on the first day of the week, that is, according to the interpretation of St. Chrysostom, on the Lord's day. From all this we learn that even then the Lord's day was kept holy in the Church.
Four Parts Of This Commandment
In order that the faithful may know what they are to do and what to avoid on the Lord's day, it will not be foreign to his purpose, if the pastor, dividing the Commandment into its four natural parts, explain each word of it carefully.
First Part of this Commandment
In the first place, then, he should explain generally the meaning of these words: Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day.
The word remember is appropriately made use of at the beginning of the Commandment to signify that the sanctification of that particular day belonged to the ceremonial law. Of this it would seem to have been necessary to remind the people; for, although the law of nature commands us to devote a certain portion of time to the external worship to God, it fixes no particular day for the performance of this duty.
They are also to be taught, that from these words we may learn how we should employ our time during the week; that we are to keep constantly in view the Lord's day, on which we are, as it were, to render an account to God for our occupations and conduct; and that therefore our works should be such as not to be unacceptable in the sight of God, or, as it is written, be to us an occasion of grief, and a scruple of heart.
Finally, we are taught, and the instruction demands our serious attention, that there will not be wanting occasions which may lead to a forgetfulness of this Commandment, such as the evil example of others who neglect its observance, and an inordinate love of amusements and sports, which frequently withdraw from the holy and religious observance of the Lord's day.
We now come to the meaning of the word sabbath. Sabbath is a Hebrew word which signifies cessation. To keep the Sabbath, therefore, means to cease from labor and to rest. In this sense the seventh day was called the Sabbath, because God, having finished the creation of the world, rested on that day from all the work which He had done. Thus it is called by the Lord in Exodus.
Later on, not only the seventh day, but, in honour of that day, the entire week was called by the same name; and in this meaning of the word, the Pharisee says in St. Luke: I fast twice in a sabbath. So much will suffice with regard to the signification of the word sabbath.
In the Scriptures keeping holy the Sabbath means a cessation from bodily labor and from business, as is clear from the following words of the Commandment: Thou shalt do no work on it. But this is not all that it means; otherwise it would have been sufficient to say in Deuteronomy, Observe the day of the sabbath; but it is added, and sanctify it; and these additional words prove that the Sabbath is a day sacred to religion, set apart for works of piety and devotion.
We sanctify the Sabbath fully and perfectly, therefore, when we offer to God works of piety and religion. This is evidently the Sabbath, which Isaias calls delightful; for festivals are, as it were, the delight of God and of pious men. And if to this religious and holy observance of the Sabbath we add works of mercy, the rewards promised us in the same chapter are numerous and most important.
The true and proper meaning, therefore, of this Commandment tends to this, that we take special care to set apart some fixed time, when, disengaged from bodily labor and worldly affairs, we may devote our whole being, soul and body, to the religious veneration of God.
Second Part of this Commandment
The second part of the precept declares that the seventh day was consecrated by God to His worship; for it is written: Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy works; but on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God. From these words we learn that the Sabbath is consecrated to the Lord, that we are required on that day to render Him the duties of religion, and to know that the seventh day is a sign of the Lord's rest.
"The Seventh Day Is The Sabbath Of The Lord Thy God"
This particular day was fixed for the worship of God, because it would not have been well to leave to a rude people the choice of a time of worship, lest, perhaps, they might have imitated the festivals of the Egyptians.
The last day of the week was, therefore, chosen for the worship of God, and in this there is much that is symbolic. Hence in Exodus,' and in Ezechiel the Lord calls it a sign: See that you keep my sabbath because it is a sign between me and you in your generation, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctify you.
It was a sign that man should dedicate and sanctify himself to God, since even the very day is devoted to Him. For the holiness of the day consists in this, that on it men are bound in a special manner to practice holiness and religion.
It was also a sign, and, as it were, a memorial of the stupendous work of the creation. Furthermore, to the Jews it was a traditional sign, reminding them that they had been delivered by the help of God from the galling yoke of Egyptian bondage. This the Lord Himself declares in these words: Remember that thou also didst serve in Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out from thence with a strong hand and a stretched out arm. Therefore hath he commanded thee that thou shouldst observe the sabbath day.
It is also a sign of a spiritual and celestial sabbath. The spiritual sabbath consists in a holy and mystical rest, wherein the old man being buried with Christ, is renewed to life and carefully applies himself to act in accordance with the spirit of Christian piety. For those who were once darkness but are now light in the Lord, should walk as children of the light, in all goodness and justice and truth, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
The celestial sabbath, as St. Cyril observes on these words of the Apostle, There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God, is that life in which, living with Christ, we shall enjoy all good, when sin shall be eradicated, according to the words: No lion shall be there, nor shall any mischievous beast go up by it, nor be found there; but a path shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way; for in the vision of God the souls of the Saints obtain every good. The pastor therefore should exhort and animate the faithful in the words: Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest.
Other Festivals Observed By The Jews
Besides the seventh day, the Jews observed other festivals and holydays, instituted by the divine law to awaken the recollection of the principal favours (conferred on them by the Almighty).
The Sabbath, Why Changed To Sunday
But the Church of God has thought it well to transfer the celebration and observance of the Sabbath to Sunday.
For, as on that day light first shone on the world, so by the Resurrection of our Redeemer on the same day, by whom was thrown open to us the gate to eternal life, we were called out of darkness into light; and hence the Apostles would have it called the Lord's day.
We also learn from the Sacred Scriptures that the first day of the week was held sacred because on that day the work of creation commenced, and on that day the Holy Ghost was given to the Apostles.
Other Festivals Observed By The Church
From the very infancy of the Church and in the following centuries other days were also appointed by the Apostles and the holy Fathers, in order to commemorate the benefits bestowed by God. Among these days to be kept sacred the most solemn are those which were instituted to honour the mysteries of our redemption. In the next place are the days which are dedicated to the most Blessed Virgin Mother, to the Apostles, Martyrs and other Saints who reign with Christ. In the celebration of their victories the divine power and goodness are praised, due honour is paid to their memories, and the faithful are encouraged to imitate them.
"Six Days Shalt Thou Labour And Do All Thy Work"
And as the observance of the precept is very strongly assisted by these words: Six days shalt thou labour, but on the seventh day is the sabbath of God, the pastor should therefore carefully explain them to the people. For from these words it can be gathered that the faithful are to be exhorted not to spend their lives in indolence and sloth, but that each one, mindful of the words of the Apostle, should do his own business, and work with his own hands, as he had commanded them.
These words also enjoin as a duty commanded by God that in six days we do all our works, lest we defer to a festival what should have been done during the other days of the week, thereby distracting the attention from the things of God.
Third Part of this Commandment
The third part of the Commandment comes next to be explained. It points out, to a certain extent, the manner in which we are to keep holy the Sabbath day, and explains particularly what we are forbidden to do on that day.
Thou shalt do no work on it, says the Lord, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.
These words teach us, in the first place, to avoid whatever may interfere with the worship of God. Hence it is not difficult to perceive that all servile works are forbidden, not because they are improper or evil in themselves, but because they withdraw the attention from the worship of God, which is the great end of the Commandment.
The faithful should be still more careful to avoid sin, which not only withdraws the mind from the contemplation of divine things, but entirely alienates us from the love of God.
But whatever regards the celebration of divine worship, such as the decoration of the altar or church on occasion of some festival, and the like, although servile works, are not prohibited; and hence our Lord says: The priests in the temple break the sabbath, and are without blame.
Neither are we to suppose that this Commandment forbids attention to those things on a feast day, which, if neglected, will be lost; for this is expressly permitted by the sacred canons.
There are many other things which our Lord in the Gospel declares lawful on festivals and which may be seen by the pastor in St. Matthew and St. John.
Why Animals Are Not To Be Employed On The Sabbath
To omit nothing that may interfere with the sanctification of the Sabbath, the Commandment mentions beasts of burden, because their use will prevent its due observance. If beasts be employed on the Sabbath, human labor also becomes necessary to direct them; for they do not labor alone, but assist the labours of man. Now it is not lawful for man to work on that day. Hence it is not lawful for the animals to work which man uses.
But the Commandment has also another purpose. For. if God commands the exemption of cattle from labor on the Sabbath, still more imperative is the obligation to avoid all acts of inhumanity towards servants, or others whose labor and industry we employ.
Works Commanded Or Recommended
The pastor should also not omit carefully to teach what works and actions Christians should perform on festival days. These are: to go to church, and there, with heartfelt piety and devotion, to assist at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and to approach frequently the Sacraments of the Church, instituted for our salvation in order to obtain a remedy for the wounds of the soul.
Nothing can be more seasonable or salutary for Christians than frequent recourse to confession; and to this the pastor will be enabled to exhort the faithful by using the instructions and proofs which have been explained in their own place on the Sacrament of Penance.
But not only should he urge his people to have recourse to that Sacrament, he should also zealously exhort them again and again to approach frequently the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The faithful should also listen with attention and reverence to sermons. Nothing is more intolerable, nothing more unworthy than to despise the words of Christ, or hear them with indifference.
Likewise the faithful should give themselves to frequent prayer and the praises of God; and an object of their special attention should be to learn those things which pertain to a Christian life, and to practice with care the duties of piety, such as giving alms to the poor and needy, visiting the sick, and administering consolation to the sorrowful and afflicted. Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this, says St. James, to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation.
From what has been said it is easy to perceive how this Commandment may be violated.
Motives for the Observance of this Commandment
It is also a duty of the pastor to have ready at hand certain main arguments by which he may especially persuade the people to observe this Commandment with all zeal and the greatest exactitude.
Reasonableness Of This Duty
To the attainment of this end it will materially conduce, if the people understand and clearly see how just and reasonable it is to devote certain days exclusively to the worship of God in order to acknowledge, adore, and venerate our Lord from whom we have received such innumerable and inestimable blessings.
Had He commanded us to offer Him every day the tribute of religious worship, would it not be our duty, in return for His inestimable and infinite benefits towards us, to endeavour to obey the command with promptitude and alacrity? But now that the days consecrated to His worship are but few, there is no excuse for neglecting or reluctantly performing this duty, which moreover obliges under grave sin.
The Observance Of This Commandment Brings Many Blessings
The pastor should next point out the excellence of this precept. Those who are faithful in its observance are admitted, as it were, into the divine presence to speak freely with God; for in prayer we contemplate the divine majesty, and commune with Him; in hearing religious instruction, we hear the voice of God, which reaches us through the agency of those who devoutly preach on divine things; and at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we adore Christ the Lord, present on our altars. Such are the blessings which they preeminently enjoy who faithfully observe this Commandment.
Neglect Of This Commandment A Great Crime
But those who altogether neglect its fulfilment resist God and His Church; they heed not God's command, and are enemies of Him and His holy laws, of which the easiness of the command is itself a proof. We should, it is true, be prepared to undergo the severest labor for the sake of God; but in this Commandment He imposes on us no labor; He only commands us to rest and disengage ourselves from worldly cares on those days which are to be kept holy. To refuse obedience to this Commandment is, therefore, a proof of extreme boldness; and the punishments with which its infraction has been visited by God, as we learn from the Book of Numbers,' should be a warning to us.
In order, therefore, to avoid offending God in this way, we should frequently ponder this word: Remember, and should place before our minds the important advantages and blessings which, as we have already seen, flow from the religious observance of holydays, and also numerous other considerations of the same tendency, which the good and zealous pastor should develop at considerable length to his people as circumstances may require.