The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
2. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
2.6 The Sixth Commandment
'Thou shalt not kill.' Exod xx 13.
In this commandment is a sin forbidden, which is murder, 'Thou
shalt not kill,' and a duty implied, which is, to preserve our own
life, and the life of others.
The sin forbidden is murder: 'Thou shalt not kill.' Here two
things are to be understood, the not injuring another, nor
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.'
Psa xxxv 11. The primitive Christians were traduced for incest, and
killing their children, as Tertullian says, Dicimur infanaticidii
incestus rei [They charge us with infanticide and label us
incestuous]. This is to behead others in their good name; it is an
irreparable injury. No physician can heal the wounds of the tongue.
 We must not injure another in his body. Life is the most
precious thing; and God has set this commandment as a fence about
it, to preserve it. He made a statute which has never to this day
been repealed. 'Whose sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood
be shed.' Gen ix 6. In the old law, if a man killed another
unawares, he might take sanctuary; but if he killed him willingly,
though he fled to the sanctuary, the holiness of the place would not
defend him. 'If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to
slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he
may die.' Exod xxi 14. In the commandment, 'Thou shalt do no
murder,' all sins are forbidden which lead to it, and are the
occasions of it: As,
(1) Unadvised anger. Anger boils in the veins, and often
produces murder. 'In their anger they slew a man.' Gen xlix 6.
(2) Envy. Satan envied our first parents the robe of innocence,
and the glory of paradise, and could not rest till he had procured
their death. Joseph's brethren, because his father loved him, and
gave him a 'coat of divers colours,' envied him, and took counsel to
slay him. Gen xxxvii 20. Envy and murder are near akin, therefore the
apostle puts them together. 'Envyings, murders.' Gal v 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
iv 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 xxvii 4.
(3) Hatred. The Pharisees hated Christ because he excelled them
in gifts, and had more honour among the people than they. They never
left him till they had nailed him to the cross, and taken away his
life. Hatred is a vermin which lives upon blood. 'Because thou hast
had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of
Israel.' Ezek xxxv 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.
Esther iii 9. Hatred is ever cruel. All these sins are forbidden in
How many ways is murder committed?
We may be said to murder another twelve ways. (1) With the
hand; as Joab killed Abner and Amass. 'He smote him in the fifth
rib, and shed out his bowels.' 2 Sam xx 10. (2) With the mind.
Malice is mental murder. 'Whosoever hates his brother is a
murderer.' 1 John iii 15. To malign another, and wish evil against
him in the heart, is murdering him. (3) With the tongue, by speaking
to the prejudice of another, and causing him to be put to death.
Thus the Jews killed the Lord of life, when they inveighed against
him, and accused him falsely to Pilate. John xviii 30. (4) With the
pen. Thus David killed Uriah by writing to Joab to 'set Uriah in the
forefront of the battle.' 2 Sam xi15. Though the Ammonites' sword
cut off Uriah, yet David's pen was the cause of his death; and
therefore the Lord tells David by the prophet Nathan, 'Thou hast
killed Uriah.' 2 Sam xii 9. (5) By plotting another's death. Thus,
though Jezebel did not lay her own hands upon Naboth, yet because
she contrived his death, and caused two false witnesses to swear
against him, and bring him within the compass of treason, she was
the murderer. 1 Kings xxi 9, 10. (6) By putting poison into cups.
Thus the wife of Commodes the emperor killed her husband by
poisoning the wine which he drank. So, many kill little children by
medicines that cause their death. (7) By witchcraft and sorcery -
which were forbidden under the law. 'There shall not be found among
you an enchanter, or a witch, or a consulter with familiar spirits.'
Deut xviii 10, 11. (8) By having an intention to kill another; as
Herod, under a pretence of worshipping Christ, would have killed
him. Matt ii 8, 13. So, when Saul made David go against the
Philistines, he designed that the Philistine should have killed him.
'Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the
Philistines be upon him.' I Sam xviii 17. Here was intentional murder,
and it was in God's account as bad as actual murder. (g) By
consenting to another's death; as Saul to the death of Stephen. 'I
also was standing by and consenting unto his death.' Acts xxii 20. He
that gives consent is accessory to the murder. (10) By not hindering
the death of another when in our power. Pilate knew Christ was
innocent. 'I find no fault in him,' he said, but did not hinder his
death; therefore he was guilty. Washing his hands in water could not
wash away the guilt of Christ's blood. (11) By unmercifullness. By
taking away that which is necessary for the support of life; as to
take away the tools or utensils by which a man gets his living. 'No
man shall take the upper or the nether millstone to pledge, for he
taketh a man's life.' Deut xxiv 6. Or by not helping him when he is
ready to perish. You may be the death of another, as well by not
relieving him, as by offering him violence. If thou dost not feed
him that is starving, thou killest him. How many are thus guilty of
the breach of this commandment! (12) By not executing the law upon
capital offenders. A felon having committed six murders, the judge
may be said to be guilty of five of them, because he did not execute
the felon for his first offence.
What are the aggravations of this sin of murder?
(1) To shed the blood of another ceaselessly; as to kill
another in a humour or frolic. A bee will not sting unless provoked,
but many when not provoked, will take away the life of another. This
makes the sin of blood more bloody. The less provocation to a sin
the greater sin.
(2) To shed the blood of another contrary to promise. Thus,
after the princes of Israel had sworn to the Gibeonites that they
should live, Saul slew them. Josh ix 15. 2 Sam xxi 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 iii 20. To stain one's hands with royal
blood. David's heart smote him because he did but cut off the lap of
king Saul's garment. I Sam xxiv 5. How would David's heart have
smitten him if he had cut off Saul's head?
(4) To shed the blood of a near relation aggravates the murder,
and dyes it of a deeper crimson. For a son to kill his father is
horrid. Parricides are monsters in nature. Qui occidit patrem,
plurima committit peccata in uno. Cicero. 'He who takes away his
father's life, commits many sins in one;' he is not guilty of murder
only, but of disobedience, ingratitude, and diabolical cruelty. 'He
who striketh his father or mother, shall be surely put to death.'
Exod xxi 15. Then how many deaths is he worthy of that destroys his
father or mother! Such a monster was Nero, who caused his mother,
Agrippina, to be slain.
(5) To shed the blood of any righteous person aggravates the
sin. Hereby justice is perverted. Such a person being innocent, is
unworthy of death. A saint being a public blessing, lies in the
breach to turn away wrath; so that to destroy him is to pull down
the pillars of a nation. He is precious to God. Psa cxvi 15. He is a
member of Christ's body; therefore what injury is offered to him is
done to God himself. Acts ix 4.
Though, however, this commandment forbids private persons to
shed the blood of another, unless in their own defence, yet, such as
are in office must punish public offenders, even with death. To kill
an offender is not murder, but justice. A private person sins if he
draws the sword; a public person sins if he puts up the sword. A
magistrate ought not to let the sword of justice rust in the
scabbard. As he should not let the sword be too sharp by severity,
so neither should the edge of it be blunted by too much levity.
Neither does this commandment prohibit a just war. When men's
sins grow ripe, and long plenty has bred surfeit, God says, 'Sword,
go through the land.' Ezek xiv 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 xi 21.
It should be for a lamentation that this land is
defiled with blood. Numb xxxv 33. How common is this sin in this
boasting age! England's sins are written in letters of blood. Some
make no more of killing men than sheep. 'In thy skirts is found the
blood of the poor innocents.' Jer ii 34. Junius reads it, in alis;
and so in Hebrew, 'in thy wings' is found the blood of innocents. It
alludes to the birds of prey, which stain their wings with the blood
of other birds. May not the Lord justly take up a controversy with
the inhabitants of the land, because 'blood toucheth blood'? Hos iv
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 vi 6. (1) They swear by his blood, and so,
as it were, make his wounds bleed afresh. (2) They crucify Christ in
his members. 'Why persecutes thou me?' Acts ix 4. The foot being
trodden on, the head cries out. (3) If it lay in their power, were
Christ alive on earth, they would nail him again to the cross. Thus
men crucify Christ afresh; and, if man's blood so cries, how loud
will Christ's blood cry against sinners?
Beware of having your hands imbrued in the blood of
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 xii 19. You
would undertake to revenge yourself; would be plaintiff, and judge,
and executioner, in yourself. This is a great wrong done to God, and
he will not hold you guiltless.
To deter all from having their hands defiled with blood,
consider what a sin murder is. It is (1) A God-affronting sin. It is
a breach of his command, and trampling upon his royal edict. It is a
wrong offered to God's image. 'In the image of God made he man.' Gen
ix 6. It is tearing God's picture, and breaking in pieces the King
of heaven's broad seal. Man is the temple of God. 'Know ye not that
your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?' I Cor vi 19. The
man-slayer destroys God's temple; and will God endure to be thus
confronted by proud dust?
(2) It is a crying sin. Clamitat in coelum vox sanguinis [The
voice of blood cries to Heaven]. There are three sins in Scripture
which are said to cry. Oppression. Psa xii 5. Sodomy. Gen xviii 21.
Bloodshed. This cries so loud, that it drowns all the other cries.
'The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.'
Gen iv 10. Abel's blood had as many tongues as drops, to cry aloud
for vengeance. This sin of blood lay heavy on David's conscience;
though he had sinned by adultery, yet, what he cried out for most
was, this crimson sin of blood. 'Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O
God.' Psa li 14. Though the Lord visits for every sin, yet he will
in a special manner make 'inquisition for blood.' Psa ix 12. If a
beast killed a man it was to be stoned, and its flesh was not to be
eaten. Exod xxi 28. If God would have a beast stoned that killed a
man, which had not the use of reason to restrain it, much more will
he be incensed against those who, against both reason and
conscience, take away the life of a man.
(3) Murder is a diabolical sin. It makes a man the devil's
first born, for he was a murderer from the beginning. John viii 44. By
saying to our first parents, 'Ye shall not die,' he brought death
into the world.
(4) It is a cursed sin. If there be a curse for him that smites
his neighbour secretly, he is doubly cursed that kills him. Deut xxvii
24. The first man that was born was a murderer. 'And now art thou
cursed from the earth.' Gen iv 11. He was an excommunicated person,
banished from the place of God's public worship. God set a mark upon
bloody Cain. Gen iv 15. Some think that mark was horror of mind,
which, above all sins, accompanies the sin of blood. Others think it
was a continual shaking and trembling in his flesh. He carried a
curse along with him.
(5) It is a wrath-procuring sin. 2 Kings xxiv 4.
It procures temporal judgements. Phocas, to get the empire, put
to death all the sons of Mauritius the emperor, and then slew the
emperor himself; but he was pursued by Priscus, his son-in-law, who
cut off his ears and feet, and then killed him. Charles IX, who
caused the massacre of so many Christians at Paris, died from blood
issuing out of several parts of his body. Albania killed a man and
made of his skull a cup to drink in. His own wife, soon afterwards,
caused him to be murdered in his bed. Vengeance as a bloodhound
pursues the murderer. 'Bloody men shall not live out half their
days.' Psa lv 23. It brings eternal judgements. It binds men over
to hell. The Papists make nothing of massacres, because theirs is a
bloody religion; they give a dispensation for murder, if it be to
propagate the Catholic cause. If a cardinal puts his red hat upon
the head of a murderer going to execution, he saves him from death.
Let all impenitent murderers read their doom in Rev xxi 8:
'Murderers shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire
and brimstone, which is the second death.' We read of 'fire mingled
with blood.' Rev viii 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 ix 44. Time will not finish it, tears
will not quench it.
 We must not injure another in his soul. This is the
greatest murder of all, because there is more of God's image in the
soul than in the body. Though the soul cannot be annihilated, it is
said to be murdered when it is deprived of its happiness, and is for
ever in torment. How many are soul murderers!
(1) Such as corrupt others by bad example. The world is led by
example; especially by the examples of great ones, which are very
pernicious. We are apt to do as we see others before us, especially
those above us. Such as are placed in high power, are like the
pillar of cloud; where that went, Israel went. When great ones move,
others will follow them, though it be to hell. Evil magistrates,
like the tail of the dragon, draw the 'third part of the stars after
(2) Such as entice others to sin. The harlot by curling her
hair, rolling her eyes, laying open her breasts, does what in her
lies to be both a tempter and a murderer. Such a one was Messalina,
wife to Claudius the emperor. 'I discerned a young man, and there
met him a woman with the attire of a harlot; so she caught him and
kissed him.' Prov vii, 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.  That starve souls. 'Feed the flock of God which is
among you.' 1 Pet v 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 v 12. Was he fit to be a preacher in
Israel, think ye, who being asked something concerning the
decalogue, answered he never saw any such book?  That poison
souls. Such are heterodox ministers, who poison people with error.
The basilisk poisons herbs and flowers by breathing on them; so the
breath of heretical ministers poisons souls. The Socinian, who would
rob Christ of his Godhead; the Armenian, who by advancing the power
of the will, would take off the crown from the head of free-grace;
the Antinomian, who denies the use of the moral law to a believer,
as if it were antiquated and out of date - poison men's souls. Error
is as damnable as vice. 'There shall be false teachers among you,
who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that
bought them.' 2 Pet ii 1.  That infect souls by their scandalous
lives. 'Let the priests which come near to the Lord sanctify
themselves.' Exod xix 22. Ministers who by their places are nearer
to God, should be holier than others. The higher the elements are,
the purer they are; air is purer than water; fire is purer than air.
The higher men are in office, the holier they should be. John the
Baptist was a shining lamp. But there are many who infect their
people with their bad life; they preach one thing, and live another.
Qui Curios simulant et bacchanalia vivunt [They make a show of
goodness, but live a life of riot]. Like Eli's sons, they are in
white linen, but have scarlet sins. Some say, that Prester John, the
lord of Africa, caused to be carried before him a golden cup full of
dirt; a fit emblem of such ministers as have a golden office, but
are dirty and polluted in their lives. They are murderers, and the
blood of souls will cry against them at the last day.
(4) Such as destroy others by getting them into bad company,
and so make them proselytes to the devil. Vitia in proximum quamque
transiliunt [Our vices leap on to the man next to us]. Seneca. A man
cannot live in the Ethiopian climate but he will be discoloured with
the sun, nor can he be in bad company but he will partake of their
evil. One drunkard makes another; as the prophet speaks in another
sense. 'I set before them pots full of wine, and cups, and said unto
them, Drink ye wine;' so the wicked set pots of wine before others,
and made them drink till reason be stupefied, and lust inflamed. Jer
xxxv 5. Such are guilty of the breach of this commandment. How sad
will it be with those who have not only their own sins, but the
blood of others to answer for! So much for the first thing forbidden
in the commandment, the injuring of others.
II. THE second thing forbidden in this commandment is, injuring
ourselves. 'Thou shalt not kill:' thou shalt do no hurt to thyself.
Thou shalt not hurt thy own body. One may be guilty of
self-murder, either 1. Indirectly or occasionally. Or, 2. Directly
 Indirectly and occasionally; as
(1) When a man thrusts himself into danger which he might
prevent. If a company of archers were shooting, and one should put
himself in the place where the arrows fly, so that an arrow kills
him, he is accessory to his own death. In the law, God would have
the leper shut up, to keep others from being infected. Lev xiii 4. If
any should be so presumptuous as to go to a leper, and get the
plague of leprosy, he might thank himself for his own death. (2) A
person may be guilty of his own death, in some sense, by neglecting
the use of means for preserving life. If sick, and he uses no
remedy; if he has received a wound, and will not apply a cure, he
hastens his own death. God commanded Hezekiah to lay a 'lump of figs
upon the boil.' Isa xxxviii 21. If he had not done so, he would have
been the cause of his own death. (3) By immoderate grief. 'The
sorrow of the world worketh death.' 2 Cor vii 10. When God takes away
a dear relation, and any one is swallowed up with sorrow, he
endangers his life. How many weep themselves into their graves!
Queen Mary grieved so excessively for the loss of Calais, that it
broke her heart. (4) By intemperance or excess in diet. Surfeiting
shortens life. Plures periere crapula, quam gladio [More perish by
drink than by the sword]. Many dig their grave with their teeth. Too
much oil chokes the lamp. The cup kills more than the cannon.
Excessive drinking causes untimely death.
 One may be guilty of self-murder, directly and absolutely.
(1) By envy. Envy is tristitia de bonis alienis, 'a secret
repining at the welfare of another.' Invidus alterius rebus
macrescit opimis. 'An envious man is more sorry at another's
prosperity, than at his own adversity.' He never laughs but when
another weeps. Envy is a self-murder, a fretting canker. Cyprian
calls it vulnus occultum, 'a secret wound;' it hurts a man's self
most. Envy corrodes the heart, dries up the blood, rots the bones.
Envy is 'the rottenness of the bones.' Prov xiv 30. It is to the
body what the moth is to the cloth, that eats it and makes its
beauty consume. Envy drinks its own venom. The viper, which leaped
on Paul's hand, thought to have hurt Paul, but fell into the fire
itself. Acts xxviii 3. So, while the envious man thinks to hurt
another, he destroys himself.
(2) By laying violent hands on himself, and thus he commits
felo de se; as Saul fell upon his own sword and killed himself. It
is the most unnatural and barbarous kind of murder for a man to
butcher himself and imbrue his hands in his own blood. A man's self
is most near to him, therefore this sin of self-murder breaks both
the law of God, and the bonds of nature. The Lord has placed the
soul in the body, as in a prison; and it is a sin to break open this
prison till God opens the door. Self-murderers are worse than the
brute-creatures, which will tear and gore open one another, but not
destroy themselves. Self-murder is occasioned usually by discontent,
and a sullen melancholy. The bird that beats itself in the cage, and
is ready to kill itself, is a true emblem of a discontented spirit.
Whence comes this discontent?
This discontent arises - (1) From pride. A man who swells with
a high opinion of himself, and thinks he deserves better than
others, when any great calamity befalls him, is discontented, and in
a sudden passion will make away with himself. Ahithophel had high
thoughts of himself, his words were esteemed oracles, and he could
not bear to have his wise counsel rejected. 'He put his household in
order, and hanged himself.' 2 Sam xvii 23. (2) From poverty. Poverty
is a sore temptation. 'Give me not poverty.' Prov xxx 8. Many have
brought themselves to poverty by their sin; and when a great estate
is boiled away to nothing, they are discontented, and think it
better to die quickly, than languish in misery, and the devil soon
helps them to dispatch themselves. (3) From covetousness. Avarice is
a dry drunkenness, a horse-leech that is never satisfied. The
covetous man is like behemoth. 'Behold he drinketh up a river,' and
yet his thirst is not allayed. Job xl 33. The covetous miser hoards
up corn; and if he hears the price of corn begins to fall, he is
troubled, and there is no cure for his discontent but a halter. (4)
From horror of mind. A man has sinned a great sin, has swallowed
down some pills of temptation the devil has given him, and these
pills begin to work in his conscience, and the horror becomes so
great, that he chooses strangling. Judas having betrayed innocent
blood, was in such an agony of conscience, that he hanged himself;
as if, to avoid the stinging of a gnat, any one should endure the
bite of a serpent. I can see no ground of hope for such as make away
with themselves; for they die in the very act of sin, and cannot
have time to repent.
Hurting our own souls is forbidden in the command, 'Thou shalt
not kill.' Many who are free from other murders, are guilty here.
They murder their own souls. They wilfully damn themselves, and
throw themselves into hell.
Who are they that murder their own souls?
(1) They wilfully murder their souls who have no sense of God,
or the world to come, and are past feeling. Eph iv 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 vii 12, 'The adamant,'
says Pliny, 'is insuperable, the hammer cannot conquer it.' Sinners
have adamantine hearts. When the prophet spake to the altar of
stone, it rent asunder, but sinner's hearts are so hardened in sin
(I Kings xiii 5), nothing will work upon them, neither ordinances nor
judgements. They do not believe in a God; they laugh at hell. Thus
they murder their own souls, and throw themselves into hell as fast
as they can.
(2) They wilfully murder their own souls who resign themselves
to their lusts, let what will come of it. The soul cries out in you,
I am killing myself; I am murdering myself. They 'have given
themselves over to work all uncleanness with greediness.' Eph iv 19.
Let ministers speak to them about their sins, let conscience speak,
let affliction speak, they will have their lusts, even though they
go to hell for them. Do not these murder their own souls? As
Agrippina, mother of Nero, said, occidat modo imperet, let my son
kill me, so he may reign; so many say in their hearts, let our sins
damn us, so that they but please us. Herod will have his incestuous
lusts, though it costs him his soul; and for a drop of pleasure men
will drink a sea of wrath. Do not these massacre and damn their own
(3) They murder their souls who avoid all means of saving them.
They will go to plays, to drunken meetings, but will not set their
foot in God's house, or come near the sound of the gospel-trumpet;
as if one that is diseased should shun the bath for fear of being
healed. These are self murderers as much as one who has the means of
cure offered him, but chooses rather to die.
(4) They voluntarily murder their souls who take false
prejudices against religion; as if it were so strict and severe that
they must live a melancholy life, like hermits and anchorites, and
drown all their joys in tears. It is a slander which the devil casts
upon religion, for there is no true joy but in believing. Rom xv 1,
3. No honey is so sweet as that which drops from a promise. Some men
foolishly take up a prejudice against religion; they are resolved
never to go to heaven, rather than go through the strait gate. I may
say of prejudice, as Paul to Elymas, 'O prejudice, thou child of the
devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,' how many souls hast thou
damned? Acts xiii 10.
(5) They wilfully murder their own souls who will neither be
good themselves, nor suffer others to be so. 'Ye neither go [into
the kingdom of heaven] yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are
entering to go in.' Matt xxiii 13. Such are they who persecute others
for their religion. Drunken meetings may escape punishments from
them, but if men meet to serve God, all severity will be used. They
are resolved to shipwreck others, though they themselves are cast
away in the storm. Oh! take heed of murdering your own souls. No
creature but man willingly kills itself.
III. THE positive duty implied in the command is, that we
should do all the good we can to ourselves and others.
 In reference to others. We should endeavour 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 wants, and like the good Samaritan, pour wine and oil into
their wounds. 'I was a father to the poor.' Job xxix 16. 'The
blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me.' Ver 13. It
is a great means of preserving the life of another to relieve him
when he is ready to perish. When there was a great dearth in Rome,
Pompey provided corn for its relief; and when the mariners were
afraid to sail thither in a tempest, he said, 'It is not necessary
that we should live, but it is necessary that Rome be relieved.'
Grace makes the heart tender, it causes sympathy and charity. As it
melts the heart in contrition towards God, so in compassion towards
others. 'He has dispersed, he has given to the poor.' Psa xxix 9.
This commandment implies that we should be so far from ruining
others, that we should do all we can to preserve the lives of
others. When you see the picture of death drawn in their faces,
administer to their necessities; be temporal saviours to then; draw
them out of the waters of affliction with a silver cord of charity.
That I may persuade you to this, let me lay before you some
(1) Works of charity evidence grace. As Faith. 'I will show
thee my faith by my works.' James ii 18. Works are faith's letters
of credence. We judge of the health of the body by the pulse where
the blood stirs and operates; so Christian, judge of the health of
thy faith by the pulse of charity. The word of God is the rule of
faith, and good works are the witnesses of faith. It evidences also
Love. Love loves mercy; it is a noble bountiful grace. Mary loved
Christ, and how liberal was her love! She bestowed on Christ her
tears, kisses, and costly ointments. Love, like a full vessel, will
have vent; it vents itself in acts of liberality.
(2) To communicate to the necessities of others is not left to
our choice, but is an incumbent duty. 'Charge them that are rich in
this world that they do good; that they be rich in good works.' I
Tim vi 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
(3) God supplies our wants, and shall not we supply the wants
of others? 'We could not live without mercy.' God makes every
creature helpful to us: the sun to enrich us with its golden beams;
the earth to yield us its increase, veins of gold, crops of corn,
and store of flowers. God opens the treasury of his mercy; he feeds
us every day out of the alms-basket of his providence. 'Thou openest
thy hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.' Psa cxlv
16. Does God supply our wants, and shall we not minister to the
wants of others? Shall we be as a sponge to suck in mercy, and not
as breasts to milk it out to others?
(4) Herein we resemble God, to be doing good to others. It is
our excellence to be like God. 'Godliness is Godlikeness.' When are
we more like him than in acts of bounty and munificence? 'Thou art
good, and does good.' Psa cxix 68. 'Thou art good,' there is his
essential goodness; and 'doest good,' there is his communicative
goodness. The more helpful we are to others, the more like we are to
God. We cannot be like God in omniscience, or in working miracles;
but we may be like him in doing works of mercy.
(5) God remembers all our deeds of charity, and takes them
kindly at our hands. 'God is not unrighteous to forget your labour
of love which ye have shewed towards his name, in that you have
ministered to the saints.' Heb vi 10. The chief butler may forget
Joseph's kindness, but the Lord will not forget any kindness we show
to his people. 'I was an hungred and ye gave me meat; thirsty, and
ye gave me drink.' Matt xxv 35. Christ takes the kindness done to
his saints as done to himself. God has a bottle for your tears, and
a book to write down your alms. 'A book of remembrance was written
before him.' Mal iii 16. Tamerlane had a register to write down all
the names and good services of his soldiers; so God has a book of
remembrance to write down all your charitable works; and at the day
of judgement there shall be an open and honourable mention made of
them in the presence of the angels.
(6) Hardheartedness to others in misery reproaches the gospel.
When men's hearts are like pieces of rock, or as the scales of the
leviathan, 'shut up as with a close seal,' you may as well extract
oil out of flint, as the golden oil of charity out of them. Job xli
15. They unchristianize themselves. Unmercifullness is the sin of
the heathen. 'Unmerciful.' Rom i 31. It eclipses the glory of the
gospel. Does the gospel teach uncharitableness? Does it not bid us
'draw out thy soul to the hungry'? Isa lviii 10. 'These things I will
that thou affirm, that they which have believed in God, might be
careful to maintain good works.' Tit iii 8. While you relieve not
such as are in want, you walk in opposition to the gospel; you cause
it to be evil spoken of, and lay it open to the lash and censure of
(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 iv 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 xi
25. It shall be as the loaves in breaking multiplied; or, as the
widow's oil, increased in pouring out. I Kings xvii 16. An estate may
be imparted without being impaired.
(8) To do good to others in necessity keeps up the credit of
religion. Works of mercy adorn the gospel, as the fruit adorns the
tree. When 'one light so shines that others see our good works,' it
glorifies God, crowns religion, and silences the lips of gainsayers.
Basil says nothing rendered the true religion more famous in the
primitive times, and made more proselytes to it, than the bounty and
charity of Christians.
(9) The evil that accrues by not preserving the lives of
others, and helping them in their necessities. God often sends a
secret moth into their estate. 'There is that withholdeth more than
is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.' Prov xi 24. 'Whose stoppeth
his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but
shall not be heard.' Prov xxi 13. 'He shall have judgement without
mercy, that has shewed no mercy.' James ii 13. Dives denied Lazarus
a crumb of bread, and Dives was denied a drop of water. 'Depart from
me, ye cursed; for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat.' Matt
xv 41. Christ says not, 'Ye took away my meat;' but 'Ye gave me no
meat;' ye did not feed my members, therefore 'depart from me.' By
all this, be ready to distribute to the necessities of others. This
is included in the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Not only thou
shalt not destroy another's life, but thou shalt preserve it by
ministering to his necessities.
It is implied that we should endeavour to preserve the souls of
others: counsel them about their souls; set life and death before
them; help them to heaven. In the law, if one met his neighbour's ox
or ass going astray, he must bring him back again. Exod xxiii 4. Much
more, if we see our neighbour's soul going astray, we should use all
means to bring him back to God by repentance.
 In reference to ourselves. The commandment, 'Thou shalt not
kill,' requires that we should preserve our own life and soul. It is
engraven upon every creature that he should preserve his own natural
life. We must be so far from self-murder, that we must do all we can
to preserve natural life. We must use all means of diet, exercise,
and lawful recreation, which, like oil, preserves the lamp of life
from going out. Some have been tempted by Satan to believe they are
such sinners that they do not deserve a bit of bread, and so they
have been ready to starve themselves. This is contrary to the
commandment, 'Thou shalt do no murder,' which implies that we are to
use all proper means for the preservation of life. 'Drink no longer
water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake.' 1 Tim v 23.
Timothy was not, by drinking too much water, to overcool his
stomach, and weaken nature, but to use means for self-preservation -
to drink 'a little wine,' &c.
This commandment requires that we should also endeavour to
preserve our own souls. Omnia si perdas animam servare memento
[Though you lose all else, remember to save your soul]. It is
engraven upon every creature, as with the point of a diamond, to
look to its own preservation. If the life of the body must be
preserved, much more the life of the soul. If he who does not
provide for his own house is worse than an infidel, much more he who
does not provide for his own soul. 1 Tim v 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 xvi 26.
The soul is a glass. in which some rays of divine glory shine; it
has in it some faint idea and resemblance of a Deity; it is a
celestial spark lighted by the breath of God. The body was made of
the dust, but the soul is of a more noble origin. God breathed into
man a living soul. Gen ii 7.
(1) The soul is excellent in its nature. It is a spiritual
being, 'it is a kind of angelical thing.' The mind sparkles with
knowledge, the will is crowned with liberty, and all the affections
are as stars shining in their orb. The soul being spiritual, it is
of quick operation. How quick are the motions of a spark! How swift
the wing of a cherubim! So quick and agile is the motion of the
soul! What is quicker than thought? How many miles can the soul
travel in an instant! The soul, being spiritual, moves upwards, it
contemplates God and glory. 'Whom have I in heaven but thee?' Psa
lxxiii 25. The motion of the soul is upward; but sin has put a wrong
bias upon it, and made it move downward. The soul, being spiritual,
has a self-moving power; it can subsist and move when the body is
dead, as the mariner can subsist when the ship is broken. The soul,
being spiritual, is immortal (Scaliger), aeternitatis gemma, 'a bud
(2) As the soul is excellent in its nature, so in its
capacities. It is capable of grace, it is fit to be an associate and
companion of angels. It is capable of communion with God, of being
Christ's spouse. 'I have espoused you to one husband that I may
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.' 2 Cor xi 2. It is
capable of being crowned with glory for ever. Oh! then, carrying
such precious souls about you, created with the breath of God,
redeemed with the blood of God, what endeavours should you use for
the saving of these souls! Let not the devil have your souls.
Heliogabalus fed his lions with pheasants: the devil is called a
roaring lion: feed him not with your souls. Besides the excellence
of the soul, which may make you labour to get it saved, consider how
sad it will be not to have the soul saved; it is such a loss as
there is none like it; because in losing the soul, you lose many
things with it. A merchant in losing his ship, loses many things
with it: he loses money, jewels, spices, &c.; so he that loses his
soul, loses Christ and the company of angels in heaven. It is an
infinite loss - an irreparable loss; it can never be made up again.
'Two eyes and one soul.' Chrysostom. Oh! what care should be taken
of the immortal soul! I would request but this of you, that you take
as much care for the saving of your souls as you do for getting an
estate. Nay, do but take as much care for saving your souls as the
devil does for destroying them. Oh! how industrious is Satan to damn
souls! How does he play the serpent in his subtle laying of snares
to catch souls! How does he shoot the fiery darts! He is never idle;
he is a busy bishop in his diocese; he 'walketh about seeking whom
he may devour.' 1 Pet v 8. Now, is it not a reasonable request to
take as much care for saving your souls as the devil does for
How can we have our souls saved?
By having them sanctified. Only the 'pure in heart shall see
God.' Get your souls inlaid and enamelled with holiness. I Pet i
16. It is not enough that 'we cease to do evil;' which is all the
evidence some have to show, and lose heaven by short shooting; but
we must be inwardly sanctified. Not only the 'unclean spirit' must
go out, but we must be filled with the Holy Ghost. Eph v 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 iii 17.
Therefore the soul must be consecrated. A king's palace must be kept
clean, especially his presence chamber. The body is the temple of
the Holy Ghost. I Cor vi 19. The soul is the sanctum sanctorum; how
holy should it be!
You are to dwell with God. Heaven is a holy place. 'An
inheritance undefiled.' I Pet i 4. And how can you dwell with God
till you are sanctified? We do not put wine into a musty vessel; and
God will not put the new wine of glory into a sinful heart. Oh,
then, as you love your souls, and would have them saved eternally,
endeavour after holiness! By this means you will have a fitness for
the kingdom of heaven, and your souls will be saved in the day of
the Lord Jesus.