The Ten Commandments
by Thomas Watson
The SIXTH Commandment
"You shall not kill." Exodus 20:13
In this commandment is a sin forbidden, which is
murder, "You shall not kill," and a duty implied, which is, to
preserve our own life, and the life of others.
The sin forbidden, is murder. "You shall not kill."
Here two things are to be understood, the not injuring another, nor
I. The not injuring another.
 We must not injure another in his NAME. "A
good name is a precious balsam." It is a great cruelty to murder a man in
his name. We injure others in their name, when we calumniate and slander
them. David complains, "They laid to my charge things that I knew not."
Psalm 35:11. The primitive Christians were traduced for incest, and killing
their children, as Tertullian says, "They charge us with infanticide and
label us incestuous." This is to behead others in their good name; it is an
irreparable injury. No physician can heal the wounds of the tongue!
 We must not injure another in his BODY.
Life is the most precious thing; and God has set this commandment as a fence
about it, to preserve it. He made a statute which has never to this day been
repealed. "Whose sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Gen
9:6. In the old law, if a man killed another unwillingly, he might
take sanctuary; but if he killed him willingly, though he fled to the
sanctuary, the holiness of the place would not defend him. "If someone
deliberately attacks and kills another person, then the slayer must be
dragged even from my altar and put to death." Exod 21:14. In the
commandment, "You shall do no murder," all sins are forbidden which lead
to it, and are the occasions of it. As,
(1) Anger. Anger boils in the veins, and often
produces murder. "In their anger they slew a man." Gen 49:6.
(2) Envy. Satan envied our first parents the
robe of innocence, and the glory of paradise, and could not rest until he
had procured their death. Joseph's brethren, because his father loved him,
and gave him a "coat of many colors," envied him, and took counsel to slay
him. Gen 37:20. Envy and murder are near akin, therefore the apostle puts
them together. "Envyings, murders." Gal 5:21. Envy is a sin which breaks
both tables at once; it begins in discontent against God, and ends in injury
against man, as we see in Cain. Gen 4:6, 8. Envious Cain was first
discontented with God, by which he broke the first table; and then fell out
with his brother and slew him, and thus broke the second table. Anger
is sometimes "soon over," like fire kindled in straw, which is quickly out;
but envy is deep rooted, and will not quench its thirst without
blood. "Who is able to stand before envy?" Prov 27:4.
(3) Hatred. The Pharisees hated Christ because
he excelled them in gifts, and had more honor among the people than they.
They never left him until they had nailed him to the cross, and taken away
his life. Hatred is a vermin which lives upon blood. "Because you have had a
perpetual hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel." Ezek
35:5. Haman hated Mordecai because he would not bow to him, and presently
sought revenge, by getting a bloody warrant sealed for the destruction of
the whole race and seed of the Jews. Esth 3:9. Hatred is ever cruel. All
these sins are forbidden in this commandment.
How many ways is murder committed? We may be
said to murder another twelve ways.
(1) With the hand; as Joab killed Abner and Amasa.
"Amasa didn't notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in
the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground." 2 Sam
(2) With the mind. Malice is mental murder.
"Whoever hates his brother is a murderer." 1 John 3:15. To malign another,
and wish evil against him in the heart, is murdering him.
(3) With the tongue, by speaking to the harm of
another, and causing him to be put to death. Thus the Jews killed the Lord
of life, when they inveighed against him, and accused him falsely to Pilate.
(4) With the pen. Thus David killed Uriah by
writing to Joab to "set Uriah in the forefront of the battle." 2 Sam 11:15.
Though the Ammonites' sword killed Uriah—yet David's pen was the cause of
his death; and therefore the Lord tells David by the prophet Nathan, "You
have killed Uriah." 2 Sam 12:9.
(5) By plotting another's death. Thus, though
Jezebel did not lay her own hands upon Naboth—yet because she contrived his
death—she was the murderer. 1 Kings 21:9, 10.
(6) By putting poison into cups. Thus the wife of
Commodes the emperor killed her husband by poisoning the wine which he
drank. So, many kill little children by medicines, which cause their death.
(7) By witchcraft and sorcery—which were forbidden
under the law. "Do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery,
or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells,
or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead.
Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the
Lord." Deuteronomy 18:10-12
(8) By having an intention to kill another; as
Herod, under a pretense of worshiping Christ, would have killed him. Matt
2:8, 13. So, when Saul made David go against the Philistines, he designed
that the Philistine should have killed him. "Saul said, Let not my hand be
upon him—but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him." 1 Sam 18:17. Here
was the intent to murder, and it was in God's account as bad as
(9) By consenting to another's death; as Saul to
the death of Stephen. "I also was standing by and consenting unto his
death." Acts 22:20. He who gives consent, is accessory to the murder.
(10) By not hindering the wrongful death of
another, when in our power. Pilate knew Christ was innocent. "I find no
fault in him," he said—but did not hinder his death; therefore he was
guilty. Washing his hands in water, could not wash away the guilt of
(11) By unmercifulness. By taking away that which
is necessary for the support of life; as to take away the tools or utensils
by which a man gets his living. "It is wrong to take a pair of millstones,
or even just the upper millstone, as a pledge, for the owner uses it to make
a living." Deut 24:6. Or by not helping him when he is ready to perish. You
may be the death of another, as well by not relieving him, as by doing him
violence. If you do not feed him who is starving, you kill him. How many are
thus guilty of the breach of this commandment!
(12) By not executing the law upon capital
offenders. A felon having committed six murders, the judge may be said to be
guilty of five of them, because he did not execute the felon for his first
What are the aggravations of this sin of murder?
(1) To shed the blood of another causelessly; as to kill
another in a humor or frolic. A bee will not sting unless provoked—but many
when not provoked, will take away the life of another. This makes the sin of
blood more bloody. The less provocation to a sin the greater sin.
(2) To shed the blood of another contrary to promise.
Thus, after the princes of Israel had sworn to the Gibeonites that they
should live, Saul slew them. Josh 9:15. 2 Sam 21:1. Here were two sins bound
together, perjury and murder.
(3) To take away the life of any public person enhances
the murder, and makes it greater, as to kill a judge upon the bench, because
he represents the king's person. To murder a person whose office is sacred,
and comes on the King of heaven's embassage; the murdering of whom may be
the murdering of many. Herod added this sin above all, that he shut up John
the Baptist in prison, much more to behead him in prison. Luke 3:20. To
stain one's hands with royal blood. David's heart smote him because he did
but cut off the corner of king Saul's garment. 1 Sam 24:5. How would David's
heart have smitten him if he had cut off Saul's head?
(4) To shed the blood of a near relation aggravates the
murder, and dyes it of a deeper crimson. For a son to kill his father is
horrid. Parricides are monsters in nature. "He who takes away his father's
life, commits many sins in one;" he is not guilty of murder only—but of
disobedience, ingratitude, and diabolical cruelty. "He who strikes
his father or mother, shall be surely put to death." Exod 21:15. Then how
many deaths is he worthy of, who destroys his father or mother! Such
a monster was Nero, who caused his mother, Agrippina, to be slain.
(5) To shed the blood of any righteous person aggravates
the sin. Hereby justice is perverted. Such a person being innocent, is
unworthy of death. A saint being a public blessing, lies in the breach to
turn away wrath; so that to destroy him is to pull down the pillars of a
nation. He is precious to God. Psalm 116:15. He is a member of Christ's
body; therefore what injury is offered to him is done to God himself. Acts
Though, however, this commandment forbids private
people to shed the blood of another, unless in their own defense—yet, such
as are in public office must punish public offenders, even with
death. To kill an offender is not murder—but justice. A private
person sins if he draws the sword; a public person sins if he puts
up the sword. A magistrate ought not to let the sword of justice rust in
the scabbard. As he should not let the sword be too sharp by severity,
so neither should the edge of it is blunted by too much leniency.
Neither does this commandment prohibit a just war.
When men's sins grow ripe, and abundance of goods has bred abundance of sin,
God says, "Sword, go through the land." Ezek 14:17. He encouraged the war
between the tribes of Israel and Benjamin. When the iniquity of the Amorites
was full, he sent Israel to war against them. Judges 11:21.
Use one. It should be for a lamentation that
this land is defiled with blood. Numb 35:33. How common is this sin in this
boasting age! England's sins are written in letters of blood. Some make no
more of killing men, than sheep! "In your skirts is found the
blood of the poor innocents." Jer 2:34. In Hebrew, "in your wings" is found
the blood of innocents. It alludes to the birds of prey, which stain their
wings with the blood of other birds. May not the Lord justly take up a
controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because "blood touches blood"
Hos 4:2. There are wholesale murders.
And that which should increase our lamentation is, that
not only man's blood is shed among us—but Christ's blood. Profane flagitious
sinners are said to "crucify the son of God afresh." Heb 6:6.
(1) They swear by his blood, and so, as it were, make his
wounds bleed afresh.
(2) They crucify Christ in his members. "Why do you
persecute me?" Acts 9:4. The foot being trodden on, the
head cries out.
(3) If it lay in their power, were Christ alive on
earth—they would nail him to the cross again! Thus men crucify Christ
afresh; and, if man's blood so cries, how loud will Christ's blood cry
Use two. Beware of having your hands imbrued
in the blood of others.
"But such a one has wronged me by defamation, or
otherwise; and if I spill his blood, I shall but revenge my own quarrel!"
If he has done you wrong, the law is open; but take heed
of shedding blood. What! Because he has wronged you, will you therefore
wrong God? Is it not doing wrong to God, to take his work out of his hand?
He has said "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." Rom 12:19. You would
undertake to revenge yourself; would be plaintiff, and judge, and
executioner, in yourself. This is a great wrong done to God, and he will not
hold you guiltless.
To deter all from having their hands defiled with blood,
consider what a sin murder is.
(1) Murder is a God-affronting sin. It is a
breach of his command, and trampling upon his royal edict. It is a wrong
offered to God's image. "In the image of God made he man." Gen 9:6. It is
tearing God's picture. Man is the temple of God. "Know you not, that your
body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" 1 Cor 6:19. The man-slayer destroys
God's temple; and will God endure to be thus confronted by proud dust?
(2) Murder is a crying sin. "The voice of
blood cries to Heaven." There are three sins in Scripture which are said to
Oppression. Psalm 12:5.
Sodomy. Gen 18:21.
Bloodshed. This cries so loud, that it drowns all the
other cries. "The voice of your brother's blood cries unto me from the
ground." Gen 4:10. Abel's blood had as many tongues as drops, to cry aloud
for vengeance! This sin of blood lay heavy on David's conscience; though he
had sinned by adultery—yet, what he cried out for most was, this crimson sin
of blood. "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God." Psalm 51:14. Though the
Lord visits for every sin—yet he will in a special manner make "inquisition
for blood." Psalm 9:12. If an animal killed a man—it was to be stoned, and
its flesh was not to be eaten. Exod 21:28. If God would have an animal
stoned, which killed a man, which had not the use of reason to restrain it;
much more will he be incensed against those who, against both reason and
conscience, take away the life of a man.
(3) Murder is a diabolical sin. It makes a man
the devil's first born, for he was a murderer from the beginning. John 8:44.
By saying to our first parents, "You shall not die," he brought death into
(4) Murder is a cursed sin. If there is a
curse for him who smites his neighbor secretly, he is doubly cursed,
who kills him. Deut 27:24. The first man who was born was a murderer.
"And now are you cursed from the earth." Gen 4:11. He was an excommunicated
person, banished from the place of God's public worship. God set a mark upon
bloody Cain. Gen 4:15. Some think that mark was horror of mind, which, above
all sins, accompanies the sin of blood. Others think it was a continual
shaking and trembling in his flesh. He carried a curse along with him.
(5) Murder is a wrath-procuring sin. 2 Kings
It procures temporal judgments. Phocas, to get the
empire, put to death all the sons of Mauritius the emperor, and then slew
the emperor himself; but he was pursued by Priscus, his son-in-law, who cut
off his ears and feet, and then killed him. Charles IX, who caused the
massacre of so many Christians at Paris, died from blood issuing out of
several parts of his body. Albania killed a man and made of his skull a cup
to drink in. His own wife, soon afterwards, caused him to be murdered in his
bed. Vengeance as a bloodhound pursues the murderer. "Bloody men
shall not live out half their days." Psalm 55:23.
It brings eternal judgments. It binds men over to
hell. The Papists make nothing of massacres, because theirs is a bloody
religion; they give a license for murder, if it is to propagate the Catholic
cause. If a cardinal puts his red hat upon the head of a murderer going to
execution, he saves him from death. Let all impenitent murderers read their
doom in Rev 21:8: "Murderers shall have their part in the lake which burns
with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." We read of "fire
mingled with blood." Rev 8:7. Such as have their hands full of blood must
undergo the wrath of God. Here is fire mingled with blood, and this fire is
inextinguishable. Mark 9:44. Time will not finish it, tears will not quench
 We must not injure another in his SOUL.
This is the greatest murder of all, because there is more of God's image in
the soul, than in the body. Though the soul cannot be annihilated, it is
said to be murdered when it is deprived of its eternal happiness, and is
forever in torment. How many are soul-murderers!
(1) Soul-murderers are those who corrupt others by
bad example. The world is led by example;
especially by the examples of great ones, which are very pernicious. We are
apt to do as we see others before us, especially those above
us. Such as are placed in high power, are like the pillar of cloud; where
that went, Israel went. When great ones move, others will follow them,
though it is to hell. Evil magistrates, like the tail of the dragon, draw
the "third part of the stars after them."
(2) Soul-murderers are those who entice others to sin.
The harlot by curling her hair, rolling her eyes, laying open her
breasts—does what in her lies to be both a tempter and a murderer. Such a
one was Messalina, wife to Claudius the emperor. "Then out came a woman to
meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. She took hold of
him and kissed him." Prov 7:10, 13. Better are the reproofs of a friend,
than the kisses of a harlot.
(3) Ministers are murderers, who either
starve, or poison, or infect souls. "When I say to a wicked man, 'You will
surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his
evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin,
and I will hold you accountable for his blood." Ezekiel 3:18
 Who starve souls. "Feed the flock of God which
is among you." 1 Pet 5:2. These feed themselves and starve the flock; either
through non-residing, they do not preach, or through insufficiency, they
cannot. There are many in the ministry so ignorant that they had need to be
taught the "first principles of the oracles of God." Heb 5:12. Was he fit to
be a preacher in Israel, do you think, who being asked something concerning
the decalogue, answered that he never saw any such book?
 Who poison souls. Such are heterodox
ministers, who poison people with error. The basilisk poisons herbs and
flowers by breathing on them; so the breath of heretical ministers poisons
souls. The Socinian, who would rob Christ of his Godhead; the
Arminian, who by advancing the power of the will, would take off the
crown from the head of free-grace; the Antinomian, who denies the use
of the moral law to a believer, as if it were antiquated and out of
date—poison men's souls. Error is as damnable as vice. "There were also
false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among
you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies." 2 Pet 2:1.
 Who infect souls by their scandalous lives.
"Let the priests which come near to the Lord sanctify themselves." Exod
19:22. Ministers who by their office, are nearer to God, should be holier
than others. The higher the elements are, the purer they are; air is purer
than water; fire is purer than air. The higher men are in office, the holier
they should be. John the Baptist was a shining lamp. But there are many who
infect their people with their bad life; they preach one thing, and live
another. "They make a show of goodness—but live a life of riot." Like Eli's
sons, they are in white linen—but have scarlet sins. A golden cup full of
dirt—is a fit emblem of such ministers as have a golden office—but are dirty
and polluted in their lives. They are murderers, and the blood of souls will
cry against them at the last day.
(4) Such as destroy others by getting them into bad
company, and so make them proselytes to the devil. "Our vices
leap on the man next to us." Seneca. A man cannot live in the Ethiopian
climate but he will be blackened with the sun, nor can he be in bad company
but he will partake of their evil. One drunkard makes another; as the
prophet speaks in another sense. "I set before them pots full of wine, and
cups, and said unto them, Drink wine;" so the wicked set pots of wine before
others, and made them drink until reason be stupefied, and lust inflamed.
Jer 35:5. Such are guilty of the breach of this commandment. How sad will it
be for those, who have not only their own sins—but the blood of others to
answer for! So much for the first thing forbidden in the commandment, the
injuring of others.
II. The second thing forbidden in this commandment is,
injuring OURSELVES. "You shall not kill." You shall do no hurt to
You shall not hurt your own body. One may be guilty of
1. Indirectly or occasionally.
2. Directly and absolutely.
 Indirectly and occasionally.
(1) When a man thrusts himself into danger which he might
prevent. If a company of archers were shooting, and one should put himself
in the place where the arrows fly, so that an arrow kills him—he is
accessory to his own death. In the law, God would have the leper shut up, to
keep others from being infected. Lev 13:4. If any should be so presumptuous
as to go to a leper, and get the plague of leprosy, he might thank himself
for his own death.
(2) A person may be guilty of his own death, in some
sense, by neglecting the use of means for preserving life. If sick, and he
uses no remedy; if he has received a wound, and will not apply a cure—he
hastens his own death. God commanded, "Make an ointment from figs and spread
it over the boil, and Hezekiah will recover." Isa 38:21. If he had not done
so, he would have been the cause of his own death.
(3) By immoderate grief. "The sorrow of the world works
death." 2 Cor 7:10. When God takes away a dear relation, and anyone is
swallowed up with sorrow, he endangers his life. How many weep themselves
into their graves! Queen Mary grieved so excessively for the loss of Calais,
that it broke her heart.
(4) By intemperance or excess in diet. Glutting shortens
life. "More perish by drink—than by the sword." Many dig their grave with
their teeth. Too much oil chokes the lamp. The cup kills more than
the cannon. Excessive drinking causes untimely death.
 One may be guilty of self-murder, directly and
(1) By envy. Envy is, "a secret repining at
the welfare of another." "An envious man is more sorry at another's
prosperity, than at his own adversity." He never laughs, but when another
weeps. Envy is a self-murder, a fretting canker. Cyprian calls it, "a secret
wound." Envy hurts a man's self most. Envy corrodes the heart, dries up the
blood, rots the bones. Envy is "the rottenness of the bones." Prov 14:30. It
is to the body, what the moth is to the cloth—which eats it and makes its
beauty consume. Envy drinks its own venom. The viper, which leaped on Paul's
hand, thought to have hurt Paul—but fell into the fire itself. Acts 28:3.
So, while the envious man thinks to hurt another, he destroys himself.
(2) By laying violent hands on himself. Saul
fell upon his own sword and killed himself. It is the most unnatural and
barbarous kind of murder for a man to butcher himself and imbrue his hands
in his own blood. A man's self is most near to him, therefore this sin of
self-murder breaks both the law of God, and the bonds of nature. The Lord
has placed the soul in the body, as in a prison; and it is a sin to break
open this prison until God opens the door. Self-murderers are worse than the
brute-creatures, which will tear and gore one another—but not destroy
themselves. Self-murder is occasioned usually by discontent, and a sullen
melancholy. The bird that beats itself in the cage, and is ready to kill
itself, is a true emblem of a discontented spirit.
Whence comes this discontent?
This discontent arises—
(1) From pride. A man who swells with a high
opinion of himself, and thinks he deserves better than others. When any
great calamity befalls him, he is discontented, and in a sudden passion will
make away with himself. Ahithophel had high thoughts of himself, his words
were esteemed oracles, and he could not bear to have his wise counsel
rejected. "He put his household in order—and hanged himself." 2 Sam 17:23.
(2) From poverty. Poverty is a sore temptation.
"Give me not poverty." Prov 30:8. Many have brought themselves to poverty by
their sin; and when a great estate is boiled away to nothing, they are
discontented, and think it better to die quickly, than languish in misery.
The devil soon helps them to dispatch themselves.
(3) From covetousness. Avarice is a dry
drunkenness, a horse-leech that is never satisfied. The covetous man is like
behemoth. "Behold he drinks up a river," and yet his thirst is not allayed.
Job 40:33. The covetous miser hoards up corn; and if he hears the price of
corn begins to fall, he is troubled, and there is no cure for his discontent
but a noose!
(4) From horror of mind. A man has sinned a great
sin, has swallowed down some pills of temptation, which the devil has given
him, and these pills begin to work in his conscience, and the horror becomes
so great—that he chooses strangling! Judas having betrayed innocent blood,
was in such an agony of conscience, that he hanged himself; as if, to avoid
the stinging of a gnat, any one should endure the bite of a serpent! I
can see no ground of hope for such as make away with themselves; for they
die in the very act of sin, and cannot have time to repent!
Hurting our own souls is forbidden in the command, "You
shall not kill." Many who are free from other murders, are guilty here. They
murder their own souls. They willfully damn themselves, and throw themselves
Who are those who murder their own souls?
(1) They willfully murder their souls—who have no sense
of God, or the world to come, and are past feeling. Eph 4:19.
Tell them of God's holiness and justice—and they are not at all affected.
"They made their hearts as an adamant stone." Zech 7:12, "The adamant," says
Pliny, "is impregnable, the hammer cannot conquer it." Sinners have
adamantine hearts. When the prophet spoke to the altar of stone, it rent
asunder—but sinner's hearts are so hardened in sin (1 Kings 13:5), nothing
will work upon them, neither ordinances nor judgments. They do not believe
in God; they laugh at hell. Thus they murder their own souls, and throw
themselves into hell as fast as they can.
(2) They willfully murder their own souls—who resign
themselves to their lusts, let what will come of it. The soul
cries out in you, "I am killing myself! I am murdering myself!" They "have
given themselves over to work all uncleanness with greediness." Eph 4:19.
Let ministers speak to them about their sins, let conscience
speak, let afflictions speak—they will have their lusts, even though
they go to hell for them! Do not these murder their own souls? Many say in
their hearts, "let our sins damn us—just so that that they but please us!"
Herod will have his incestuous lusts, though it costs him his soul. For a
drop of pleasure men will drink a sea of wrath! Do not these massacre and
damn their own souls? "A wicked man’s iniquities entrap him; he is entangled
in the ropes of his own sin. He will be lost because of his great
stupidity." Proverbs 5:22-23
(3) They murder their souls—who avoid all means of saving
them. They will go to plays, to drunken meetings—but will not set
their foot in God's house, or come near the sound of the gospel-trumpet; as
if one that is diseased should shun the healing cordial, for fear of being
healed. These are self murderers as much as one who has the means of cure
offered him—but chooses rather to die.
(4) They voluntarily murder their souls—who take false
prejudices against religion; as if it were so strict and severe
that they must live a melancholy life, like hermits and monks, and drown all
their joys in tears. It is a slander which the devil casts upon religion,
for there is no true joy but in believing. Rom 15:1, 3. No honey is so sweet
as that which drops from a promise. Some men foolishly take up a prejudice
against religion; they are resolved never to go to heaven, rather than go
through the strait gate. I may say of prejudice, as Paul to Elymas, "O
prejudice, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness," how many
souls have you damned? Acts 13:10.
(5) They willfully murder their own souls—who will
neither be good themselves, nor allow others to be so. "You
neither go [into the kingdom of heaven] yourselves, neither do you allow
those who are entering to go in." Matt 23:13. Such are those who persecute
others for their religion. Drunken meetings may escape punishments from
them—but if men meet to serve God, all severity will be used. They are
resolved to shipwreck others, though they themselves are cast away in the
storm. Oh! take heed of murdering your own souls! No creature but man
willingly kills itself.
III. The positive duty implied in the command is, that we
should do all the good we can to ourselves and others.
 In reference to others. We should endeavor to
preserve the lives and souls of others.
 In reference to ourselves. We should preserve
our own life and soul.
 In reference to OTHERS. We are to preserve
the life of others. We should comfort them in their sorrows, relieve them in
their needs, and like the good Samaritan, pour wine and oil into their
wounds. "I was a father to the poor." Job 29:16. "The blessing of him who
was ready to perish, came upon me." Ver 13. It is a great means of
preserving the life of another to relieve him when he is ready to perish.
When there was a great dearth in Rome, Pompey provided for its relief; and
when the mariners were afraid to sail there in a tempest, he said, "It is
not necessary that we should live—but it is necessary that Rome be
True grace makes the heart tender, it causes sympathy and
charity. As it melts the heart in contrition towards God, and in
compassion towards others. "He has dispersed, he has given to the poor."
Psalm 29:9. This commandment implies that we should be so far from
ruining others, that we should do all we can to preserve the lives of
others. When you see the picture of death drawn in their faces, administer
to their necessities; be temporal saviors to then; draw them out of the
waters of affliction with a silver cord of charity. That I may
persuade you to this, let me lay before you some arguments:
(1) Works of charity evidence grace. Charity
evidences saving FAITH. "I will show you my faith by my works." James 2:18.
Works are faith's letters of credence. We judge of the health of the body by
the pulse; so Christian, judge of the health of your faith by the pulse
of charity. The Word of God is the rule of faith, and good works
are the witnesses of faith. Charity evidences also LOVE. Love loves
mercy; it is a noble bountiful grace. Mary loved Christ, and how liberal was
her love! She bestowed on Christ her tears, kisses, and costly ointments.
Love, like a full vessel, will have vent; it vents itself in acts of
(2) To communicate to the necessities of others is not
left to our choice—but is an incumbent duty. "Charge those who
are rich in this world—that they do good; that they be rich in good works."
1 Tim 6:17, 18. This is not only a counsel—but a charge. If God should lay a
charge upon the inanimate creatures, they would obey; if he should charge
the rocks, they would send forth water; if he should charge the clouds, they
would melt into showers; if he should charge the stones, they would become
bread. And shall we be harder than the stones, not to obey God when he
charges us to "be rich in good works?"
(3) God supplies our needs, and shall not we supply the
needs of others? "We could not live without mercy." God makes
every creature helpful to us: the sun to enrich us with its golden
beams; the earth to yield us its increase, veins of gold, crops of
corn, and store of flowers. God opens the treasury of his mercy; he feeds
us every day out of the alms-basket of his providence. "You open your
hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing." Psalm 145:16. Does
God supply our needs, and shall we not minister to the needs of others?
Shall we be as a sponge to suck in mercy, and not as breasts
to milk it out to others?
(4) Herein we resemble God, to be doing good to others.
It is our excellence to be like God. "Godliness is Godlikeness." When are we
more like him—than in acts of bounty and munificence? "You are
good—and do good." Psalm 119:68. "You are good," there is his
essential goodness; and "do good," there is his communicative
goodness. The more helpful we are to others, the more like we are to God. We
cannot be like God in omniscience, or in working miracles; but we may be
like him in doing works of mercy.
(5) God remembers all our deeds of charity, and takes
them kindly at our hands. "God is not unrighteous to forget your
labor of love which you have showed towards his name, in that you have
ministered to the saints." Heb 6:10. The chief butler may forget Joseph's
kindness—but the Lord will not forget any kindness we show to his people. "I
was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me
something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes
and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and
you came to visit me." Matt 25:35, 36. Christ takes the kindness done to his
saints—as done to himself. God has a bottle for your tears, and a book to
write down your alms. "A book of remembrance was written before him." Mal
3:16. Tamerlane had a register to write down all the names and good services
of his soldiers; so God has a book of remembrance to write down all your
charitable works; and at the day of judgment there shall be an open, and
honorable mention made of them in the presence of the angels.
(6) Hardheartedness to others in misery, reproaches the
gospel. When men's hearts are like pieces of rock, or as the
scales of the leviathan, "rows of scales, closely sealed together," you may
as well extract oil out of flint, as the golden oil of charity out of
them. Job 41:15. They unchristianize themselves. Unmercifulness is the sin
of the heathen. "Unmerciful." Rom 1:31. It eclipses the glory of the gospel.
Does the gospel teach uncharitableness? Does it not bid us "Feed the hungry
and help those in trouble." Isa 58:10. "Those who have trusted in God may be
careful to devote themselves to doing what is good." Tit 3:8. While you
relieve not such as are in need, you walk in opposition to the gospel; you
cause it to be evil spoken of, and lay it open to the lash and censure of
(7) There is nothing lost, by relieving the necessitous.
The Shunammite woman was kind to the prophet, she welcomed him to
her house, and she received kindness from him another way; he restored her
dead child to life. 2 Kings 4:35. Such as are helpful to others, shall "find
grace to help in time of need." Such as pour out the golden oil of
compassion to others, shall have the golden oil of salvation by
God poured out to them; for "a cup of cold water" they shall have "rivers
of pleasure." God will make it up some way or other in this life. "The
liberal soul shall be made fat." Prov 11:25. It shall be as the loaves in
breaking multiplied; or, as the widow's oil—increased in pouring out. 1
Kings 17:16. An estate may be imparted, without being impaired.
(8) To do good to others in necessity, keeps up the
credit of religion. Works of mercy adorn the gospel, as the fruit
adorns the tree. When "one's light so shines that others see our good
works," it glorifies God, crowns religion, and silences the lips of
gainsayers. Basil says nothing rendered the true religion more famous in the
primitive times, and made more proselytes to it—than the bounty and charity
(9) The evil that accrues by not preserving the lives of
others, and helping them in their necessities. God often sends a
secret moth into their estate. "One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty." Prov 11:24. "If a man shuts
his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."
Prov 21:13. "For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown
mercy." James 2:13. Dives denied Lazarus a crumb of bread, and Dives
was denied a drop of water. "Then He will also say to those on the
left—Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for
the Devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat."
Matthew 25:41. Christ does not say, "You took away my food;" but "You gave
Me nothing to eat;" you did not feed my people—my members, therefore "Depart
from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil
and his angels!"
By all this, be ready to distribute to the necessities of
others. This is included in the commandment, "You shall not kill." Not only
you shall not destroy another's life—but you shall preserve it by
ministering to his necessities.
It is implied that we should endeavor to preserve the
souls of others: counsel them about their souls; set life and death
before them; help them to heaven. In the law, if one met his neighbor's ox
or donkey going astray, he must bring it back to the owner. Exod 23:4. Much
more, if we see our neighbor's soul going astray, we should use all means to
bring him back to God by repentance.
 In reference to OURSELVES. The
commandment, "You shall not kill," requires that we should preserve our own
life and soul. It is engraved upon every creature that he should preserve
his own natural life. We must be so far from self-murder, that we must do
all we can to preserve natural life. We must use all means of diet,
exercise, and lawful recreation, which, like oil, preserves the lamp of life
from going out. Some have been tempted by Satan to believe they are such
sinners that they do not deserve a bit of bread, and so they have been ready
to starve themselves. This is contrary to the commandment, "You shall do no
murder," which implies that we are to use all proper means for the
preservation of life. "Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little
wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." 1 Tim 5:23.
Timothy was not, by drinking too much water, to weaken nature—but to use
means for self-preservation.
This commandment requires that we should also endeavor to
preserve our own souls. "Though you lose all else, remember to save
your soul." It is engraved upon every creature, as with the point of a
diamond—to look to its own preservation. If the life of the body must
be preserved, much more the life of the soul. If he who does not
provide for his own family is worse than an infidel, much more he who does
not provide for his own soul. 1 Tim 5:8. A main thing implied in the
commandment is a special care for preserving our souls. The soul is a
jewel, a diamond set in a ring of clay. Christ puts the soul in balance
with the world, and it outweighs all. Matt 16:26. The soul is a
looking-glass, in which some rays of divine glory shine; it has in it some
faint idea and resemblance of a Deity; it is a celestial spark lighted by
the breath of God. The body was made of the dust—but the soul is of a more
noble origin. God breathed into man a living soul. Gen 2:7.
(1) The soul is excellent in its nature. It is
a spiritual being, "it is a kind of angelic thing." The mind sparkles
with knowledge, the will is crowned with liberty, and all the
affections are as stars shining in their orb. The soul being spiritual,
it is of quick operation. How quick are the motions of a spark! How swift
the wing of a cherubim! So quick and agile is the motion of the soul! What
is quicker than thought? How many miles can the soul travel in an instant!
The soul, being spiritual, moves upwards, it contemplates God and glory.
"Whom have I in heaven but you?" Psalm 73:25. The motion of the soul is
upward; but sin has put a wrong bias upon it, and made it move downward. The
soul, being spiritual, has a self-moving power; it can subsist and move when
the body is dead, as the mariner can subsist when the ship is broken. The
soul, being spiritual, is immortal—"a bud of eternity."
(2) As the soul is excellent in its nature, so in its
capacities. It is capable of grace, it is fit to be an associate
and companion of angels. It is capable of communion with God— and of being
Christ's spouse! "I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you
as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2 Cor 11:2. It is capable of being crowned
with glory forever. Oh! then, carrying such precious souls about you,
created with the breath of God, redeemed with the blood of God, what
endeavors should you use for the saving of these souls! Let not the devil
have your souls. Heliogabalus fed his lions with pheasants; the devil is
called a roaring lion—feed him not with your souls! Besides the excellence
of the soul, which may make you labor to get it saved, consider how sad it
will be not to have the soul saved; it is such a loss as there is none like
it; because in losing the soul, you lose many things with it. A merchant in
losing his ship, loses many things with it: he loses money, jewels, spices,
etc.; so he who loses his soul, loses Christ and the company of angels in
heaven. It is an infinite loss—an irreparable loss; it can never be made up
again Oh! what care should be taken of the immortal soul! I would request
but this of you, that you take as much care for the saving of your souls as
you do for getting an estate. Nay, do but take as much care for saving your
souls—as the devil does for destroying them! Oh! how industrious is Satan to
damn souls! How does he play the serpent in his subtle laying of snares to
catch souls! How does he shoot the fiery darts! He is never idle; he is a
busy bishop in his diocese; he "walks about seeking whom he may devour." 1
Pet 5:8. Now, is it not a reasonable request to take as much care for saving
your souls—as the devil does for destroying them?
How can we have our souls saved?
By having them sanctified. Only the "pure in heart shall
see God." Get your souls inlaid and enameled with holiness. 1 Pet 1:16. It
is not enough that "we cease to do evil;" which is all the evidence some
have to show, and lose heaven by short shooting; but we must be inwardly
sanctified. Not only the "unclean spirit" must go out—but we must be filled
with the Holy Spirit. Eph 5:19. This holiness must needs be, if you consider
God is to dwell with you here, and you are to dwell with him hereafter.
God is to dwell with you here. He takes up the soul for
his own lodging. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts." Eph 3:17. Therefore
the soul must be consecrated. A king's palace must be kept clean, especially
his presence chamber. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 6:19.
The soul is the holy of holies; how holy should it be!
You are to dwell with God. Heaven is a holy place. "An
inheritance undefiled." 1 Pet 1:4. And how can you dwell with God until you
are sanctified? We do not put wine into a musty vessel; and God will not put
the new wine of glory into a sinful heart. Oh, then, as you love your souls,
and would have them saved eternally, endeavor after holiness! By this means
you will have a fitness for the kingdom of heaven—and your souls will be
saved in the day of the Lord Jesus!