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tained too hastily; nor should it be passed in such a manner, as to wound religion through his sides.
Lastly, the plan comprehends the relation between master or mistress and servant. Indeed the interests of humanity require, that this should resemble the relation between parent and child, more than any other that has been named. The relation arises out of the mutual wants of mankind: and if the happiness of domestick life requires honour from children to their parents, it requires the same from servants to their masters and their mistresses. And if in the former case, the right of the superiour implies his duties, the principle must have a similar operation in the latter.
Sixth commandment. “ Thou shalt do no mur. der.” This is the wilful taking away of the life of a fellow creature, without lawful authority to that effect, and without its being in punishment for crime. How preeminent murder stands in scripture, as a cause of the highest punishment which society can inflict, appears in this, that when the earth was to be repeopled after the flood, the only law given to Noah which can be called municipal, was—" He that sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”
It is evident, that without an actual commission of this crime, there may be an approach to it in bodily injuries, which either endanger life, or cause it to be a burden. And it is difficult to say, whether it should be called an approach to the crime, or this itself in all its horrours; when any person, dependent for his or her happiness on another, has health and spirits, and perhaps life itself wasted away, by cruel and unkind treatment.
But we may go further still, and remark, that the moral reasons against murder extend in a degree to the passions which impel to it. This is evidently the principle, on which our Saviour brings causeless and excessive anger, under the present precept. For he is not adding to the law, as some suppose, but describing the operation of the spirit of it. In proportion to the magnitude of any evil, must be the depra.
vity of a disposition which makes us in danger of committing it; and which is an actual commission of it in inclination.
Seventh commandment. “ Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
There needs not any display of the enormity of the prohibited evil; or any proof, of its being the worst of invasions of private and domestick peace. But it may be proper to remark, that under the Christian law, not only polygamy, but marriage grounded on divorce, except in the case of infidelity to the marriage vow, is adultery in the eye of God; however either of them may be sanctioned by the laws of man.
Under this commandment, according to the principles which have been assumed, we must consider the highest grade of offence, as comprehending all lower grades of it, reducible under its principle. According to this, there is forbidden all unsanctioned sensual intercourse between the sexes. In order to show that Moses, in unfolding the principles of the Decalogue, extended his prohibitions to this species of crime, I shall only refer to Lev. xix. 29 and xxi. 9; and to Deuteronomy xx. 21, and xxiii. 17. And indeed it would have been very strange, if the law of God, even under the old economy, had tolerated a species of offence, which perhaps is more fruitful than any other, of disease and death; which casts off children from the tenderness and the protection of their parents; and which besides many other mischiefs, tends in its consequences to degrade one of the sexes, to the low condition of serving only to administer to the lawless passions of the other. As to the law of the New Testament, it is therein declared of offenders against the precept, in the present sense of it, that they have “no inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ;"* and that they “ shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”+ * Eph. v. 5.
+ Rey. xxi, B.
It must have been in conformity to the plan of in. terpretation here adopted, that our Saviour* extends the criminality of the adulterous act, to the passion which impels to it: not as adding to the command. ment, but as reducing under its principle whatever tends to the crime forbidden in it,
Eighth commandment. “ Thou shalt not steal.”
The odious nature of this vice, in the ordinary sense of the term, is sufficiently evident in the infamy attached to it, and never to be wiped away. But the principle of the precept should be considered, as extending to all injuring of our neighbour in his pro. perty; to overreaching in business; to the availing of ourselves of the letter of the law, in contrariety to equity; to oppression in the variety of ways, to which occasions are given by advantages possessed of station or of wealth; in short to every thing shrinking before that high spirit of social law, which condemns stealing itself, on higher ground than that of the infamy, and of any human punishment pursuing it. Perhaps there is no part of the Mosaick law more to be admired, than the precision with which it dealt out justice between man and man. And as to the morality of the Christian system, it is with great beauty and utility, that the whole subject is brought within the compass of the precept—" Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, even so do to them.”
Ninth commandment: “ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
In proportion as a man of honourable feelings values his reputation above any other worldly interest, is the injury done to him by raising a false report to his disadvantage, greater than that of defrauding him of his property.
It is easy to see, that the crime exists in its principle, when a tale is circulated, and with a view to the producing of its effect; the relater not having certain knowledge of the truth of it. And even where this
Matt. y. 28.
is done in levity, from talkativeness and to dissipate the time, the mischiefs resulting to those on whose characters the firebrands of slander light, are not the less from their being cast about in sport. It is incal. culable, how many of the charities of life would be promoted, and how many of its broils would be pre. vented, by the conscientious observance of the present precept; not only in the strict letter, but by an extension of it to whatever comes under its spirit and design. Perhaps there is no fault, which more than this stains the profession of religion, in the estimation of those who make none, and who infer that there can be no occasion for any, if it may consist with such mischievousness as this. But it would be wiser in them to look at the gospel morality, as it is in itself; and as-thanks be to God—it is practised by some. It is the decision of this holy law; that “ if any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is
Tenth commandment: “ Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife; nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.”
The Roman Church, as was intimated before, because of their consolidating of the first two commandments in one, and to make up the number ten,
, divide the present commandment. It might be magnified into six commandments, with as much reason as into two. To diminish this obvious inconsistency, it became necessary to contemplate the desire of the wife of another, and the coveting of his goods, as a distinct species of crime. And in order to establish this distinction, it became further necessary, to take advantage of the circumstance, that in the repetition of the commandments in the Fifth Book of Deutero. nomy, “the wife" stands before the house. But in the original delivery of the law, as it is in the twentieth
* James i. 26.
chapter of Exodus, the latter article precedes the rest. The difference shows, that the order was mere matter of accident; and that the coveting of what another has an exclusive interest in, was the single object of the commandment.*
The eighth forbad the actual taking of what is our neighbour's. That now before us speaks to the inward man of the heart; and prevents the intrusion even of desire, within the bounds of our neighbour's rights. For even this is sin in thought and intention, and may lead to sin in act; which could not happen, were it not preceded by that faulty state of mind. It is indeed highly faulty, not only as it respects our neighbour, but as it argues ingratitude to God, the giver of mercies, whether they be to others or to ourselves; who has bestowed on all, sometimes beyond their desires, and always beyond their deserts; and to whom therefore it is the duty of every individual, "in whatever state he is, therewith to be content.”+
The Church, having exacted the repetition of the Ten Commandments, proceeds to arrange the contents of them under two heads; keeping in view the latitude arising from the principles of interpretation, which have been here adopted. She demands of the catecumen—“What dost thou chiefly learn by these commandments?” Perhaps it would be difficult to learn any thing from them, which she has not noticed in what follows: but lest some thing should be omitted in a summary so important, she uses the qualifying term" chiefly.”
The catecumen answers" I learn two things
* The coveting of the wife of another, is evidently here considered as a di-tinct species of sin, from any which can properiy come under the seventh commındment. This prohibits adultery, expressly as to act, and impliedly as to de. sire. But there are other incentives which may excite the desires of a covetous man, agsinst he exclusive interest of ar:other in his wile: And this may have been the reason of so little stress laid in scripture, on the rank which the present article of private rights holds in the enumeration.
+ Philip iv. 11.