THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 69. What is forbidden in the Sixth Commandment?

ANSWER: The Sixth Commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life or the life of our neighbour unjustly, and whatsoever tendeth thereunto.


Q. 1. Does this precept, Thou shalt not kill, prohibit the killing of beasts?

A. No; God made a grant of them to man for food, and other uses, Gen. 9:3, and 3:21:nevertheless, the exercising cruelty upon beasts (as Balaam did, Num. 22:29,) is very unbecoming all sober men; for "a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," Prov. 12:10.

Q. 2. Were not the Jews prohibited to seethe a kid in his mother's milk, Deut. 14:21, and to kill the dam when they took the young? chap. 22:6, 7.

A. As the doing either of these was an evidence of the savage disposition and temper of some men; so the reason of the prohibition, was to curb and restrain all cruelty to the brute creatures, in order to prevent any inlet to the horrid sin of murder, or the barbarous usage of one another.

Q. 3. What are the general sins here forbidden?

A. The taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatever has a tendency to either of the two.

Q. 4. Is it lawful, in any case, to take away our own life?

A. No; it is absolutely unlawful, in any case whatever, to desert our station, or leave the word, without the permission and allowance of the sovereign Lord of our life, Job 14:14.

Q. 5. Is there any instance in scripture of a good man being suffered to lay violent hands on himself?

A. No; any instances the scripture gives of self-murder, are in men of the most infamous character; such as Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, and others of the like stamp.

Q. 6. Was not Samson (who was a good man, Heb. 11:32,) guilty of this heinous crime? Judges 16:30

A. When Samson pulled down the house upon himself and upon all the lords of the Philistines with about three thousand men and women that were in it, he did not intend his own death any farther than as an inevitable consequence of destroying so many of the church's enemies, to which he was called and strengthened in an extraordinary manner by God, as the Lord of life and death, who he also supplicated for this extraordinary strength, Judges 16:28:and herein he was an eminent type of Christ, who, "through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil," Heb. 2:14.

Q. 7. What are the aggravations of the crime of self-murder?

A. It is directly opposed to the natural principle of self-preservation implanted in us, Job 2:4; it argues the highest impatience, and rooted discontent with our lot in the present world, ver. 10:it is an impious invasion of the prerogative of God, as the sole author and disposer of life, 1 Sam. 2:6; and a most daring and presumptuous rushing upon death, and an awful eternity, chap. 31:4, 5.

Q. 8. What is meant in the answer, by taking away the life of our neighbour unjustly?

A. The taking it away in any event, "except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence."[87]

Q. 9. What is it to take away life in case of public justice?

A. It is to inflict capital punishment upon notorious criminals, by a lawful magistrate, who is ordained of God for that purpose, Rom. 13:2, 4.

Q. 10. What warrant has the civil magistrate to take away the life of a wilful murderer?

A. The express command of God, Gen. 9:6 -- "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

Q. 11. Is it lawful for a magistrate to spare, pardon, or reprieve a convicted murderer?

A. It is expressly forbidden as a land-defiling sin, Num. 35:31, 33 -- "Ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death; but he shall surely be put to death. For blood defileth the land, and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it."

Q. 12. What other crimes are punishable with death by the laws of God and man?

A. Among several others there are those following: Deliberate blasphemy, Lev. 24:16; notour adultery, Lev. 20:10; incest, ver. 11, 12; sodomy, ver 13; bestiality, ver. 15; and witchcraft.

Q. 13. Is it warrantable in a Christian magistrate to repeal or disable penal laws against witchcraft?

A. By no means; for God has expressly said, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," Exod. 22:18.

Q. 14. Is it lawful to wage war under the New Testament?

A. Yes; as appears from John the Baptist's prescribing rules for a military life, Luke 3:14; and Christ's commending the faith of the centurion, and finding no fault with his office, Matt. 8:10.

Q. 15. What makes war lawful, and the shedding of blood in it warrantable?

A. When it is undertaken in defence of civil or religious liberties, after all due means have been rejected, for obtaining redress of the unjust invasions made upon them, Judges 11:12-34.

Q. 16. When is the killing of another to be sustained as done in necessary defence?

A. When there is no way of flying from the aggressor, (which is rather to be chosen, if it can be done with safety,) but we must either lose our own life, or take away his, Ex. 22:2.

Q. 17. What if one kill another at unawares, or unwillingly?

A. If it is not through any culpable neglect, or careless oversight it is not reputed murder, either by the law of God or man, and therefore cities of refuge were of old appointed for such, Josh. 20:9.

Q. 18. How are men lavish and prodigal of their lives on points of honour?

A. By duelling.

Q. 19. What is a DUEL?

A. It is a combat or fight between two private persons, upon a challenge given and accepted; in which each party aims at the life or maiming of the other.

Q. 20. In what lies the sinfulness of such a practice?

A. It flows from passion, pride, and insatiable revenge, as the springs of it; and is a bold invasion of God's right of vengeance, together with a desperate contempt of death, judgment, and eternity, Rom. 12:19.

Q. 21. Did not David fight a duel with Goliath?

A. No; he fought by a peculiar divine impulse, under the sanction of lawful authority, for the public good, and not from any private or personal revenge, 1 Sam. 17:37-53.

Q. 22. Who was the first murderer of souls?

A. The devil, who is therefore called a murderer from the beginning, John 8:44.

Q. 23. Who was the first murderer of the body?

A. Cain, who slew his brother, Gen. 4:8.

Q. 24. Wherefore did he slay him?

A. Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous, 1 John 3:12.

Q. 25. Why was he not put to death?

A. Because God set a peculiar mark of his displeasure upon him, Gen. 4:15, (worse, in some sort, than natural death,) by protracting his miserable life, to be a fugitive, and a vagabond in the earth, and a visible monument of an intolerable load of guilt, and hopeless despair, ver. 11, 12.

Q. 26. What is the dismal effect of this sin upon murderers themselves, even though they escape capital punishment from men?

A. God frequently gives them up to the terror of a guilty conscience, which is their continual tormentor, Gen. 4:13, 14.

Q. 27. How has God testified his displeasure against this sin?

A. Ordinarily, by shortening the lives of murderers, Psalm 55:23 -- "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days." And sometimes by transmitting temporal judgments to their posterity; as Saul's murder of the Gibeonites was punished in the death of seven of his sons, 2 Sam. 21:6, 8, 9.

Q. 28. How may murder be aggravated?

A. If committed under pretence of religion, as Jezebel murdered Naboth, 1 Kings 21:9, 10; and as the Papists perpetrate their massacres; or, if done under the disguise and mask of friendship, as Joab killed Amasa, 2 Sam. 20:9, 10; or, which is unspeakably worse, as Judas betrayed our Lord, Matt. 26:48, 49.

Q. 29. Does this command forbid only the taking away of our own life, and the life of our neighbour unjustly?

A. It forbids also whatsoever tends thereto.

Q. 30. What are those things which tend to the taking away of our own life?

A. "Neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preserving it: -- all excessive passions, distracting cares, and immoderate use of meat, drink, labour, and recreation."[88]

Q. 31. How may we be guilty before God, of taking away the life of our neighbour, though we do not actually imbrue our hands in his blood?

A. We may be guilty this way in our hearts, with our tongues, and by our actions.

Q. 32. How may we be guilty of murder in our hearts?

A. By harbouring "sinful anger, hatred, envy, and a desire of revenge."[89]

Q. 33. May there be anger which is not sinful?

A. Yes; when there is a detestation of the sin, and yet no dislike of the person; in which sense the apostle says, "Be ye angry and sin not," Eph. 4:26.

Q. 34. What is the hazard of sinful anger?

A. "Whosoever is angry with his brother, without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment," Matt. 5:22.

Q. 35. What is it to be in danger of the judgment?

A. It is to be in danger of eternal punishment in the other world, for the breach of this commandment, if rich and sovereign grace prevent it not, Prov. 19:19.

Q. 36. How does hatred tend to take away the life of our neighbour?

A. It has such a tendency to it, that whosoever hateth his brother is accounted a murderer, 1 John 3:15.

Q. 37. What tendency has envy to the taking away of life?

A. As it is grieved at the good of another, or takes a secret pleasure in his death, Prov. 27:4.

Q. 38. How does desire of revenge tend to take away life?

A. As it is accompanied with an inward habitual imprecation of some visible or remarkable judgment upon the person who is the object of it, quite contrary to the command of God, Rom. 12:19 -- "Avenge not yourselves: -- for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

Q. 39. How may we be guilty of what tends to take away the life of our neighbour with our tongues?

A. By bitter and provoking words, Prov. 12:18; or threatening, reviling and deriding speeches, Matt. 5:22.

Q. 40. How may we be guilty, this way, by our actions?

A. By oppression, Ezek. 18:18; quarrelling, Gal. 5:15; striking or wounding, Num. 35:21, and the like.

Q. 41. What may we learn from this commandment?

A. That however innocent we may be of the actual blood-shedding of others, yet we are still chargeable with the worst kind of murder, even that of our own souls, while we will not come to Christ, that we might have life, John 5:40, he being the only living and true way, chap. 14:6; and "no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," Acts 4:12.


[87] Larger Catechism, Question 136.

[88] Larger Catechism, Question 136, with the Scriptures quoted.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Confession.


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