Index of Doctrinal Points
The Second Commandment.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not
curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray,
praise, and give thanks.
The Second Commandment. (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
As the First Commandment has instructed the heart and taught [the basis of] faith, so this commandment
leads us forth and directs the mouth and tongue to God. For the first objects that spring from the heart
and manifest themselves are words. Now, as I have taught above how to answer the question, what it is to
have a god, so you must learn to comprehend simply the meaning of this and all the commandments, and to
apply it to yourself.
If, then, it be asked: How do you understand the Second Commandment, or what is meant by taking in
vain, or misusing God's name? answer briefly thus: It is misusing God's name when we call upon the Lord
God no matter in what way, for purposes of falsehood or wrong of any kind. Therefore this commandment
enjoins this much, that God's name must not be appealed to falsely, or taken upon the lips while the
heart knows well enough, or should know, differently; as among those who take oaths in court, where one
side lies against the other. For God's name cannot be misused worse than for the support of falsehood
and deceit. Let4this remain the exact German and simplest meaning of this commandment.
From this every one can readily infer when and in how many ways God's name is misused, although
it is impossible to enumerate all its misuses. Yet, to tell it in a few words, all misuse of the divine
name occurs, first, in worldly business and in matters which concern money, possessions, honor, whether
it be publicly in court, in the market, or wherever else men make false oaths in God's name, or pledge
their souls in any matter. And this is especially prevalent in marriage affairs where two go and secretly
betroth themselves to one another, and afterward abjure [their plighted troth].
But. the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false
preachers rise up and offer their Lying vanities as God's Word.
Behold, all this is decking one's self out with God's name, or making a pretty show, or claiming
to be right, whether it occur in gross, worldly business or in sublime, subtle matters of faith and
doctrine. And among liars belong also blasphemers, not alone the very gross, well known to every one,
who disgrace God's name without fear (these are not for us, but for the hangman to discipline); but
also those who publicly traduce the truth and God's Word and consign it to the devil. Of this there
is no need now to speak further.
Here, then, let us learn and take to heart the great importance of this commandment, that with
all diligence we may guard against and dread every misuse of the holy name, as the greatest sin that
can be outwardly committed. For to lie and deceive is in itself a great sin, but is greatly aggravated
when we attempt to justify it, and seek to confirm it by invoking the name of God and using it as
a cloak for shame, so that from a single lie a double lie, nay, manifold lies, result.
For this reason, too, God has added a solemn threat to this commandment, to wit: For the Lord
will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in van. That is: It shall not be condoned to any
one nor pass unpunished. For as little as He will leave it unavenged if any one turn his heart from
Him, as little will He suffer His name to be employed for dressing up a lie. Now alas! it is a common
calamity in all the word that there are as few who are not using the name of God for purposes of
Lying and all wickedness as there are those who with their heart trust alone in God.
For by nature we all have within us this beautiful virtue, to wit, that whoever has committed a
wrong would like to cover up and adorn his disgrace, so that no one may see it or know it; and no
one is so bold as to boast to all the world of the wickedness he has perpetrated, all wish to act
by stealth and without any one being aware of what thy do. Then, if any one be arraigned, the name
of God is dragged into the affair and must make the villainy look like godliness, and the shame like
honor. This is the common course of the world, hich, like a great deluge, has flooded all lands. Hence
we have also as our reward what we seek and deserve: pestilence, wars, famines, conflagrations, floods,
wayward wives, children, servants, and all sorts of defilement. Whence else should so much misery
come? It is still a great mercy that the earth bears and supports us.
Therefore, above all things, our young people should have this commandment earnestly enforced upon
them, and they should be trained to hold this and the First Commandment in high regard; and whenever
they transgress, we must at once be after them with the rod and hold the commandment before them, and
constantly inculcate it, so as to bring them up not only with punishment, but also in the reverence
and fear of God.
Thus you now understand what. it is to take God's name in vain, that is (to recapitulate briefly),
either simply for purposes of falsehood, and to allege God's name for something that is not so, or
to curse, swear, conjure, and, in short, to practise whatever wickedness one may.
Besides this you must also know how to use the name [of God] aright. For when saying: Thou shalt
not take the name of the Lord thy God, in vain, He gives us to understand at the same time that it
is to be used properly. For it has been revealed and given to us for the very purpose that it may be
of constant use and profit. Hence it is a natural inference, since using the holy name for falsehood
or wickedness is here forbidden, that we are, on the other hand, commanded to employ it for truth
and for all good, as when one swears truly where there is need and it is demanded. So also when there
is right teaching, and when the name is invoked in trouble or praised and thanked in prosperity etc.;
all of which is comprehended summarily and commanded in the passage Ps. 50:15: Call upon Me in the
days of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me. For all this is bringing it into
the service of truth, and using it in a blessed way, and thus His name is hallowed, as we pray in
the Lord's Prayer.
Thus you have the sum of the entire commandment explained. And with this understanding the question
with which many teachers have troubled themselves has been easily solved, to wit, why swearing is
prohibited in the Gospel, and yet Christ, St. Paul, and other saints often swore. The explanation
is briefly this: We are not to swear in support of evil, that is, of falsehood, and where there is
no need or use; but for the support of good and the advantage of our neighbor we should swear. For
it is a truly good work, by which God is praised, truth and right are established, falsehood is refuted,
peace is made among men, obedience is rendered, and quarrels are settled. For in this way God Himself
interposes and separates between right and wrong, good and evil. If one part swears falsely, he has
his sentence that he shall not escape punishment, ad though it be deferred a long time, he shall not
succeed; that all that he may gain thereby will slip out of his hands, and he will never enjoy it;
as I have seen in the case of many who perjured themselves in their marriage-vows, that they have
never had a happy hour or a healthful day, and thus perished miserably in body, soul, and possessions.
Therefore I advise and exhort as before that by means of warning and threatening, restraint and
punishment, the children be trained betimes to shun falsehood, and especially to avoid the use of
God's name in its support. For where they are allowed to do as they please, no good will result,
and is even now evident that the world is worse than it has ever been and that there is no government,
no obedience, no fidelity, no faith, but only daring, unbridled men, whom no teaching or reproof helps;
all of which is God's wrath and punishment for such wanton contempt of this commandment.
On the other hand, they should be constantly urged and incited to honor God's name, and to have
it always upon their lips in everything that may happen to them or come to their notice: For that is
the true honor of His Name, to look to it and implore it for all consolation, so that (as we have
heard above) first the heart by faith gives God the honor due Him, and afterwards the lips by confession.
This is also a blessed and useful habit and very effectual against the devil, who is ever about
us, and lies in wait to bring us into sin and shame, calamity and trouble, but who is very loath to
hear God's name, and cannot remain long where it is uttered and called upon from the heart. And, indeed,
many a terrible and shocking calamity would befall us if, by our calling upon His name, God did not
preserve us. I have myself tried it, and learned by experience that often sudden great calamity was
immediately averted and removed during such invocation. To vex the devil, I say, we should always have
this holy name in our mouth, so that he may not be able to injure us as he wishes.
For this end it is also of service that we form the habit of daily commending ourselves to God,
with soul and body, wife, children, servants, and all that we have, against every need that may occur;
whence also the blessing and thanksgiving at meals, and other prayers, morning and evening, have originated
and remain in use. Likewise the practises of children to cross themselves when anything monstrous or
terrible is seen or heard, and to exclaim: "Lord God, protect us!" "Help, dear Lord Jesus!" etc. Thus,
too, if any one meets with unexpected good fortune, however trivial, that he say: "God be praised and
thanked; this God has bestowed on me!" etc., as formerly the children were accustomed to fast and pray
to St. Nicholas and other saints. This would be more pleasing and acceptable to God than all monasticism
and Carthusian sanctity.
Behold, thus we might train our youth in a childlike way and playfully in the fear and honor of
God, so that the First and Second Commandments might be well observed and in constant practise. Then
some good might take root, spring up and bear fruit, and men grow up whom an entire land might relish
and enjoy. Moreover, this would be the true way to bring Up children well as long as they can become
trained with kindness and delight. For what must be enforced with rods and blows only will not develop
into a good breed and at best they will remain godly under such treatment no longer than while the rod
is upon their back.
But this [manner of training] so spreads its roots in the heart that they fear God more than rods
and clubs. This I say with such simplicity for the sake of the young, that it may penetrate their minds.
For since we are preaching to children, we must also prattle with them. Thus we have prevented the
abuse and have taught the right use of the divine name, which should consist not only in words, but
also in practises and life, so that we may know that God is well pleased with this and will as richly
reward it as He will terribly punish the abuse.
The Third Commandment.
Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not
despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
The Third Commandment. (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thou shalt sanctify the holy day. [Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.]
The word holy day (Feiertag) is rendered from the Hebrew word sabbath which properly signifies to
rest, that is, to abstain from labor. Hence we are accustomed to say, Feierbend machen [that is, to
cease working], or heiligen Abend geben [sanctify the Sabbath]. Now, in the Old Testament, God separated
the seventh day, and appointed it for rest, and commanded that it should be regarded as holy above all
others. As regards this external observance, this commandment was given to the Jews alone, that they
should abstain from toilsome work, and rest, so that both man and beast might recuperate, and not be
weakened by unremitting labor. Although they afterwards restricted this too closely, and grossly abused
it, so that they traduced and could not endure in Christ those works which they themselves were accustomed
to do on that day, as we read in the Gospel just as though the commandment were fulfilled by doing no
external [manual] work whatever, which, however, was not the meaning, but, as we shall hear, that they
sanctify the holy day or day of rest.
This commandment, therefore, according to its gross sense, does not concern us Christians; for it
is altogether an external matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to
particular customs, persons, times, and places, and now have been made free through Christ.
But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God requires in this commandment, note
that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need
of it [holy days]), but first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires;
for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade
the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.
Secondly, and most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can get no other opportunity)
freedom and time be taken to attend divine service, so that we come together to hear and treat of
God's and then to praise God, to sing and pray.
However, this, I say, is not so restricted to any time, as with the Jews, that it must be just
on this or that day; for in itself no one day is better than another; but this should indeed be done
daily; however, since the masses cannot give such attendance, there must be at least one day in the
week set apart. But since from of old Sunday [the Lord's Day] has been appointed for this purpose,
we also should continue the same, in order that everything be done in harmonious order, and no one
create disorder by unnecessary innovation.
Therefore this is the simple meaning of the commandment: since holidays are observed anyhow,
such observance should be devoted to hearing God's Word, so that the special function of this day
should be the ministry of the Word for the young and the mass of poor people, yet that the resting
be not so strictly interpreted as to forbid any other incidental work that cannot be avoided.
Accordingly, when asked, What is meant by the commandment: Thou shalt sanctify the holy day? answer:
To sanctify the holy day is the same as to keep it holy. But what is meant by keeping it holy? Nothing
else than to be occupied in holy words, works, and life. For the day needs no sanctification for
itself; for in itself it has been created holy [from the beginning of the creation it was sanctified
by its Creator]. But God desires it to be holy to you. Therefore it becomes holy or unholy on your
account, according as you are occupied on the same with things that are holy or unholy.
How, then, does such sanctification take place? Not in this manner, that [with folded hands] we
sit behind the stove and do no rough [external] work, or deck ourselves with a wreath and put on
our best clothes, but (as has been said) that we occupy ourselves with God's Word, and exercise
And, indeed, we Christians ought always to keep such a holy day, and be occupied with nothing
but holy things, i.e., daily be engaged upon God's Word, and carry it in our hearts and upon our
lips. But (as has been said) since we do not at all times have leisure, we must devote several hours
a week for the sake of the young, or at least a day for the sake of the entire multitude, to being
concerned about this alone, and especially urge the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer,
and thus direct our whole life and being according to God's Word. At whatever time, then, this is
being observed and practised, there a true holy day is being kept; otherwise it shall not be called
a Christians' holy day. For, indeed, non-Christians can also cease from work and be idle, just as
the entire swarm of our ecclesiastics, who stand daily in the churches, singing, and ringing bells
but keeping no holy day holy, because they neither preach nor practises God's Word, but teach and
live contrary to it.
For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians
know and have. For though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments
upon a heap, still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which can sanctify nobody.
But God's Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves
were sanctified. At whatever hour then, God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon,
there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because
of the Word which makes saints of us all. Therefore I constantly say that all our life and work must
be ordered according to God's Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this
commandment is in force and being fulfilled.
On the contrary, any observance or work that is practised without God's Word is unholy before God,
no matter how brilliantly it may shine! even though it be covered with relics, such as the fictitious
spiritual orders which know nothing of God's Word and seek holiness in their own works.
Note, therefore, that the force and power of this commandment lies not in the resting but in the
sanctifying so that to this day belongs a special holy exercise. For other works and occupations are
not properly called holy exercises, unless the man himself be first holy. But here a work is to be
done by which man is himself made holy, which is done (as we have heard ) alone through God's Word.
For this, then, fixed places, times, persons, and the entire external order of worship have been
created and appointed, so that it may be publicly in operation.
Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified,
we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this commandment, and will punish all who
despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the
Therefore not only those sin against this commandment who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy
day, as those who on account of their greed or frivolity neglect to hear God's Word or lie in taverns
and are dead drunk like swine; but also that other crowd, who listen to God's Word as to any other
trifle, and only from custom come to preaching, and go away again, and at the end of the year know
as little of it as at the beginning. For hitherto the opinion prevailed that you had properly hallowed
Sunday when you had heard a mass or the Gospel read; but no one cared for God's Word, as also no one
taught it. Now, while we have God's Word we nevertheless do not correct the abuse; we suffer ourselves
to be preached to and admonished, but we listen without seriousness and care.
Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and
retaining it in memory, and do not think that it is optional with you or of no great importance, but
that it is God's commandment, who will require of you how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word.
Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two,
find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction.
For just that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and is called _achedia_,
i.e., torpor or satiety, a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives
the hearts of many, that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God's Word from us.
For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things,
still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares
upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the
commandments. Therefore you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your
ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage
before we are aware. On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously
contemplated heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding,
pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative
or dead, but creative, living words. And even though no other interest or necessity impel us, yet this
ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby the devil is put to flight and driven away, and,
besides, this commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more pleasing to God than
any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.
The Fourth Commandment.
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother [that it may be well with thee and
thou mayest live long upon the earth].
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not
despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love
The Fourth Commandment. (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thus far we have learned the first three commandments, which relate to God. First that with our
whole heart we trust in Him, and fear and love Him throughout all our life. Secondly, that we do not
misuse His holy name in the support of falsehood or any bad work, but employ it to the praise of God
and the profit and salvation of our neighbor and ourselves. Thirdly, that on holidays and when at rest
we diligently treat and urge God's Word, so that all our actions and our entire life be ordered according
to it. Now follow the other seven, which relate to our neighbor among which the first and greatest is:
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.
To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction above all estates
that are beneath it that He not simply commands us to love our parents, but to honor them. For with
respect to brothers, sisters, and our neighbors in general He commands nothing higher than that we love
them, so that He separates and distinguishes father and mother above all other persons upon earth, and
places them at His side. For it is a far higher thing to honor than to love one, inasmuch as it comprehends
not only love, but also modesty, humility, and deference as to a majesty there hidden, and requires not
only that they be addressed kindly and with reverence, but, most of all that both in heart and with the
body we so act as to show that we esteem them very highly, and that, next to God, we regard them as the
very highest. For one whom we are to honor from the heart we must truly regard as high and great.
We must, therefore impress it upon the young that they should regard their parents as in God's stead,
and remember that however lowly, poor, frail, and queer they may be, nevertheless they are father and
mother given them by God. They are not to be deprived of their honor because of their conduct or their
failings. Therefore we are not to regard their persons, how they may be, but the will of God who has
thus created and ordained. In other respects we are, indeed, all alike in the eyes of God; but among
us there must necessarily be such inequality and ordered difference, and therefore God commands it to
be observed, that you obey me as your father, and that I have the supremacy.
Learn, therefore, first, what is the honor towards parents required by this commandment to wit,
that they be held in distinction and esteem above all things, as the most precious treasure on earth.
Furthermore, that also in our words we observe modesty toward them, do not accost them roughly, haughtily,
and defiantly, but yield to them and be silent even though they go too far. Thirdly, that we show
them such honor also by works, that is, with our body and possessions, that we serve them, help them,
and provide for them when they are old, sick, infirm, or poor, and all that not only gladly, but with
humility and reverence, as doing it before God. For he who knows how to regard them in his heart will
not allow them to suffer want or hunger, but will place them above him and at his side, and will share
with them whatever he has and possesses.
Secondly, notice how great, good, and holy a work is here assigned children, which is alas! utterly
neglected and disregarded, and no one perceives that God has commanded it or that it is a holy, divine
Word and doctrine. For if it had been regarded as such, every one could have inferred that they must
be holy men who live according to these words. Thus there would have been no need of inventing monasticism
nor spiritual orders, but every child would have abided by this commandment, and could have directed
his conscience to God and said: "If I am to do good and holy works, I know of none better than to
render all honor and obedience to my parents, because God has Himself commanded it. For what God
commands must be much and far nobler than everything that we may devise ourselves, and since there
is no higher or better teacher to be found than God, there can be no better doctrine, indeed, than
He gives forth. Now, He teaches fully what we should do if we wish to perform truly good works, and
by commanding them, He shows that they please Him. If, then, it is God who commands this, and who knows
not how to appoint anything better, I will never improve upon it."
Behold, in this manner we would have had a godly child properly taught, reared in true blessedness,
and kept at home in obedience to his parents and in their service, so that men should have had blessing
and joy from the spectacle. However, God's commandment was not permitted to be thus [with such care
and diligence] commended, but had to be neglected and trampled under foot, so that a child could not
lay it to heart, and meanwhile gaped [like a panting wolf] at the devices which we set up, without once
[consulting or] giving reverence to God.
Let us, therefore, learn at last, for God's sake, that, placing all other things out of sight, our
youths look first to this commandment, if they wish to serve God with truly good works, that they do
what is pleasing to their fathers and mothers, or to those to whom they may be subject in their stead.
For every child that knows and does this has, in the first place, this great consolation in his heart
that he can joyfully say and boast (in spite of and against all who are occupied with works of their
own choice): "Behold, this work is well pleasing to my God in heaven that I know for certain." Let
them all come together with their many great, distressing, and difficult works and make their boast,
we will see whether they can show one that is greater and nobler than obedience to father and mother,
to whom God has appointed and commanded obedience next to His own majesty; so that if God's Word and
will are in force and being accomplished nothing shall be esteemed higher than the will and word of
parents; yet so that it, too, is subordinated to obedience toward God and is not opposed to the preceding
Therefore you should be heartily glad and thank God that He has chosen you and made you worthy to
do a work so precious and pleasing to Him. Only see that, although it be regarded as the most humble
and despised you esteem it great and precious, not on account of our worthiness, but because it is
comprehended in, and controlled by, the jewel and sanctuary, namely, the Word and commandment of God.
Oh, what a high price would all; Carthusians, monks, and nuns pay, if in all their religious doings
they could bring into God's presence a single work done by virtue of His commandment, and be able
before His face to say with joyful heart: "Now I know that this work is well pleasing to Thee." Where
will these poor wretched persons hide when in the sight of God and all the world they shall blush with
shame before a young child who has lived according to this commandment, and shall have to confess
that with their whole life they are not worthy to give it a drink of water? And it serves them right
for their devilish perversion in treading God's commandment under foot that they must vainly torment
themselves with works of their own device, and, in addition, have scorn and loss for their reward.
Should not the heart, then, leap and melt for joy when going to work and doing what is commanded,
saying: Lo, this is better than all holiness of the Carthusians, even though they kill themselves
fasting and praying upon their knees without ceasing? For here you have a sure text and a divine
testimony that He has enjoined this, but concerning the other He did not command a word. But this
is the plight and miserable blindness of the world that no one believes these things; to such an
extent the devil has deceived us with false holiness and the glamour of our own works.
Therefore I would be very glad (I say it again) if men would open their eyes and ears and take
this to heart, lest some time we may again be led astray from the pure Word of God to the lying
vanities of the devil. Then, too, all would be well; for parents would have more joy, love, friendship,
and concord in their houses; thus the children could captivate their parents' hearts. On the other
hand, when they are obstinate, and will not do what they ought until a rod is laid upon their back,
they anger both God and their parents, whereby they deprive themselves of this treasure and joy of
conscience and lay up for themselves only misfortune. Therefore, as every one complains, the course
of the world now is such that both young and old are altogether dissolute and beyond control, have
no reverence nor sense of honor, do nothing except as they are driven to it by blows, and perpetrate
what wrong and detraction they can behind each other's back; therefore God also punishes them, that
they sink into all kinds of filth and misery. As a rule, the parents, too, are themselves stupid
and ignorant; one fool trains [teaches] another, and as they have lived, so live their children
This, now, I say should be the first and most important consideration to urge us to the observance
of this commandment; on which account, even if we had no father and mother we ought to wish that God
would set up wood and stone before Us, whom we might call father and mother. How much more, since
He has given us living parents, should we rejoice to show them honor and obedience, because we know
it is so highly pleasing to the Divine Majesty and to all angels, and vexes all devils, and is,
besides, the highest work which we can do, after the sublime divine worship comprehended in the previous
commandments, so that giving of alms and every other good work toward our neighbor are not equal to
this. For God has assigned this estate the highest place, yea, has set it up in His own stead, upon
earth. This will and pleasure of God ought to be a sufficient reason and incentive to us to do what
we can with good will and pleasure.
Besides this, it is our duty before the world to be grateful for benefits and every good which we
have of our parents. But here again the devil rules in the world, so that the children forget their
parents, as we all forget God, and no one considers how God nourishes, protects, and defends us, and
bestows so much good on body and soul; especially when an evil hour comes we are angry and grumble
with impatience and all the good which we have received throughout our life is wiped out [from our
memory]. Just so we do also with our parents, and there is no child that understands and considers
this [what the parents have endured while nourishing and fostering him], except the Holy Ghost grant
him this grace.
God knows very well this perverseness of the world; therefore He admonishes and urges by commandments
that every one consider what his parents have done for him and he will find that he has from them
body and life, moreover, that he has been fed and reared when otherwise he would have perished a
hundred times in his own filth. Therefore it is a true and good saying of old and wise men: Deo,
parentibus et magistris non potest satis gratiae rependi, that is, To God, to parents, and to teachers
we can never render sufficient gratitude and compensation. He that regards and considers this will
indeed without compulsion do all honor to his parents, and bear them up on his hands as those through
whom God has done him all good.
Over and above all this, another great reason that should incite us the more [to obedience to
this commandment] is that God attaches to this commandment a temporal promise and says: That thou
mayest live long upon the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee.
Here you can see yourself how much God is in earnest in respect to this commandment, inasmuch
as He not only declares that it is well pleasing to Him, and that He has joy and delight therein;
but also that it shall be for our prosperity and promote our highest good; so that we may have a
pleasant and agreeable life, furnished with every good thing. Therefore also St. Paul greatly emphasizes
the same and rejoices in it when he says, Eph. 6:2-3: This is the first commandment with promise:
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. For although the rest also
have their promises contained in them, yet in none is it so plainly and explicitly stated.
Here, then, you have the fruit and the reward, that whoever observes this commandment shall have
happy days, fortune, and prosperity; and on the other hand, the punishment, that whoever is disobedient
shall the sooner perish, and never enjoy life. For to have long life in the sense of the Scriptures
is not only to become old, but to have everything which belongs to long life, such as health, wife,
and children, livelihood, peace, good government, etc., without which this life can neither be enjoyed
in cheerfulness nor long endure. If, therefore, you will not obey father and mother and submit to
their discipline, then obey the hangman; if you will not obey him, then submit to the skeleton-man,
i.e., death [death the all-subduer, the teacher of wicked children]. For on this God insists peremptorily:
Either if you obey Him rendering love and service, He will reward you abundantly with all good, or
if you offend Him, He will send upon you both death and the hangman.
Whence come so many knaves that must daily be hanged, beheaded, broken upon the wheel, but from
disobedience [to parents], because they will not submit to discipline in kindness, so that, by the
punishment of God, they bring it about that we behold their misfortune and grief? For it seldom happens
that such perverse people die a natural or timely death.
But the godly and obedient have this blessing, that they live long in pleasant quietness and see
their children's children (as said above) to the third and fourth generation.
Thus experience also teaches, that where there are honorable, old families who fare well and have
many children, they owe their origin to the fact, to be sure, that some of them were brought up well
and were regardful of their parents. On the other hand, it is written of the wicked, Ps. 109:13: Let
his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Therefore
heed well how great a thing in God's sight obedience is since He so highly esteems it, is so highly
pleased with it, and rewards it so richly, and besides enforces punishment so rigorously on those who
All this I say that it may be well impressed upon the young. For no one believes how necessary
this commandment is, although it has not been esteemed and taught hitherto under the papacy. These
are simple and easy words, and everybody thinks he knew them a fore; therefore men pass them lightly
by, are gaping after other matters, and do not see and believe that God is so greatly offended if
they be disregarded, nor that one does a work so well pleasing and precious if he follows them.
In this commandment belongs a further statement regarding all kinds of obedience to persons in
authority who have to command and to govern. For all authority flows and is propagated from the authority
of parents. For where a father is unable alone to educate his [rebellious and irritable] child, he
employs a schoolmaster to instruct him; if he be too weak, he enlists the aid of his friends and
neighbors; if he departs this life, he delegates and confers his authority and government upon others
who are appointed for the purpose. Likewise, he must have domestics, man-servants and maid-servants,
under himself for the management of the household, so that all whom we call masters are in the place
of parents and must derive their power and authority to govern from them. Hence also they are all
called fathers in the Scriptures, as those who in their government perform the functions of a father,
and should have a paternal heart toward their subordinates. As also from antiquity the Romans and
other nations called the masters and mistresses of the household patres- et matresfamiliae that is,
housefathers and housemothers. So also they called their national rulers and overlords patres patriae,
that is fathers of the entire country, for a great shame to us who would be Christians that we do
not likewise call them so, or, at least do not esteem and honor them as such.
Now, what a child owes to father and mother, the same owe all who are embraced in the household.
Therefore man-servants and maid-servants should be careful not only to be obedient to their masters
and mistresses but also to honor them as their own fathers and mothers, and to do everything which
they know is expected of them, not from compulsion and with reluctance, but with pleasure and joy
for the cause just mentioned, namely that it is God's command and is pleasing to Him above all other
works. Therefore they ought rather to pay wages in addition and be glad that they may obtain masters
and mistresses to have such joyful consciences and to know how they may do truly golden works; a
matter which has hitherto been neglected and despised, when, instead, everybody ran in the devil's
name, into convents or to pilgrimages and indulgences, with loss [of time and money] and with an
If this truth, then, could be impressed upon the poor people, a servant-girl would leap and praise
and thank God; and with her tidy work for which she receives support and wages she would acquire
such a treasure as all that are esteemed the greatest saints have not obtained. Is it not an excellent
boast to know and say that, if you perform your daily domestic task, this is better than all the
sanctity and ascetic life of monks? And you have the promise, in addition, that you shall prosper
in all good and fare well. How can you lead a more blessed or holier life as far as your works are
concerned? For in the sight of God faith is what really renders a person holy, and alone serves Him,
but the works are for the service of man. There you have everything good, protection and defense in
the Lord, a joyful conscience and a gracious God besides, who will reward you a hundredfold, so that
you are even a nobleman if you be only pious and obedient. But if not, you have, in the first place,
nothing but the wrath and displeasure of God, no peace of heart, and afterwards all manner of plagues
Whoever will not be influenced by this and inclined to godliness we hand over to the hangman and
to the skeleton-man. Therefore let every one who allows himself to be advised remember that God is
not making sport, and know that it is God who speaks with you and demands obedience. If you obey Him,
you are His dear child; but if you despise to do it, then take shame, misery, and grief for your reward.
The same also is to be said of obedience to civil government, which (as we have said) is all embraced
in the estate of fatherhood and extends farthest of all relations. For here the father is not one of
a single family, but of as many people as he has tenants, citizens, or subjects. For through them,
as through our parents, God gives to us food, house and home, protection and security. Therefore since
they bear such name and title with all honor as their highest dignity, it is our duty to honor them
and to esteem them great as the dearest treasure and the most precious jewel upon earth.
He, now, who is obedient here, is willing and ready to serve, and cheerfully does all that pertains
to honor, knows that he is pleasing God and that he will receive joy and happiness for his reward.
If he will not do it in love, but despises and resists [authority] or rebels, let him also know,
on the other hand, that he shall have no favor nor blessing, and where he thinks to gain a florin
thereby, he will elsewhere lose ten times as much, or become a victim to the hangman, perish by war,
pestilence, and famine, or experience no good in his children, and be obliged to suffer injury, injustice,
and violence at the hands of his servants, neighbors, or strangers and tyrants; so that what we seek
and deserve is paid back and comes home to us.
If we would ever suffer ourselves to be persuaded that such works are pleasing to God and have
so rich a reward, we would be established in altogether abundant possessions and have what our heart
desires. But because the word and command of God are so lightly esteemed, as though some babbler had
spoken it, let us see whether you are the man to oppose Him. How difficult, do you think, it will be
for Him to recompense you! Therefore you would certainly live much better with the divine favor, peace,
and happiness than with His displeasure and misfortune. Why, think you, is the world now so full of
unfaithfulness, disgrace, calamity, and murder, but because every one desires to be his own master
and free from the emperor, to care nothing for any one, and do what pleases him? Therefore God punishes
one knave by another, so that, when you defraud and despise your master, another comes and deals in
like manner with you, yea, in your household you must suffer ten times more from wife, children, or
Indeed, we feel our misfortune, we murmur and complain of unfaithfulness, violence, and injustice,
but will not see that we ourselves are knaves who have fully deserved this punishment, and yet are
not thereby reformed. We will have no favor and happiness, therefore it is but fair that we have nothing
but misfortune without mercy. There must still be somewhere upon earth some godly people because God
continues to grant us so much good! On our own account we should not have a farthing in the house nor
a straw in the field. All this I have been obliged to urge with so many words, in hope that some one
may take it to heart, that we may be relieved of the blindness and misery in which we are steeped so
deeply, and may truly understand the Word and will of God, and earnestly accept it. For thence we
would learn how we could have joy, happiness, and salvation enough, both temporal and eternal.
Thus we have two kinds of fathers presented in this commandment, fathers in blood and fathers in
office, or those to whom belongs the care of the family, and those to whom belongs the care of the
country. Besides these there are yet spiritual fathers; not like those in the Papacy, who have indeed
had themselves called thus, but have performed no function of the paternal office. For those only are
called spiritual fathers who govern and guide us by the Word of God; as St. Paul boasts his fatherhood
1 Cor. 4:15, where he says: In Christ Jesus I hove begotten you through the Gospel. Now, since they
are fathers they are entitled to their honor, even above all others. But here it is bestowed least;
for the way which the world knows for honoring them is to drive them out of the country and to grudge
them a piece of bread and, in short, they must be (as says St. Paul 1 Cor. 4:13) as the filth of the
world and everybody's refuse and footrag.
Yet there is need that this also be urged upon the populace, that those who would be Christians
are under obligation in the sight of God to esteem them worthy of double honor who minister to their
souls, that they deal well with them and provide for them. For that, God is willing to add to you
sufficient blessing and will not let you come to want. But in this matter every one refuses and resists,
and all are afraid that they will perish from bodily want, and cannot now support one respectable
preacher, where formerly they filled ten fat paunches. In this we also deserve that God deprive us
of His Word and blessing, and again allow preachers of lies to arise to lead us to the devil, and,
in addition, to drain our sweat and blood.
But those who keep in sight God's will and commandment have the promise that everything which they
bestow upon temporal and spiritual fathers, and whatever they do to honor them, shall be richly recompensed
to them, so that they shall have, not bread, clothing, and money for a year or two, but long life,
support, and peace, and shall be eternally rich and blessed. Therefore only do what is your duty, and
let God take care how He is to support you and provide for you sufficiently. Since He has promised
it, and has never yet lied, He will not be found lying to you.
This ought indeed to encourage us, and give us hearts that would melt in pleasure and love toward
those to whom we owe honor, so that we would raise our hands and joyfully thank God who has given us
such promises, for which we ought to run to the ends of the world [to the remotest parts of India].
For although the whole world should combine, it could not add an hour to our life or give us a single
grain from the earth. But God wishes to give you all exceeding abundantly according to your heart's
desire. He who despises and casts this to the winds is not worthy ever to hear a word of God. This
has now been stated more than enough for all who belong under this commandment.
In addition, it would be well to preach to the parents also, and such as bear their office, as to
how they should deport themselves toward those who are committed to them for their government. For
although this is not expressed in the Ten Commandments, it is nevertheless abundantly enjoined in many
places in the Scriptures. And God desires to have it embraced in this commandment when He speaks of
father and mother. For He does not wish to have in this office and government knaves and tyrants; nor
does He assign to them this honor, that is, power and authority to govern, that they should have
themselves worshiped; but they should consider that they are under obligations of obedience to God;
and that, first of all, they should earnestly and faithfully discharge their office, not only to support
and provide for the bodily necessities of their children, servants, subjects, etc., but, most of all,
to train them to the honor and praise of God. Therefore do not think that this is left to your pleasure
and arbitrary will, but that it is a strict command and injunction of God, to whom also you must give
account for it.
But here again the sad plight arises that no one perceives or heeds this, and all live on as though
God gave us children for our pleasure or amusement, and servants that we should employ them like a
cow or ass, only for work, or as though we were only to gratify our wantonness with our subjects,
ignoring them, as though it were no concern of ours what they learn or how they live; and no one is
willing to see that this is the command of the Supreme Majesty, who will most strictly call us to
account and punish us for it; nor that there is so great need to be so seriously concerned about the
young. For if we wish to have excellent and apt persons both for civil and ecclesiastical government
we must spare no diligence, time, or cost in teaching and educating our children, that they may serve
God and the world, and we must not think only how we may amass money and possessions for them. For
God can indeed without us support and make them rich, as He daily does. But for this purpose He has
given us children, and issued this command that we should train and govern them according to His will,
else He would have no need of father and mother. Let every one know therefore, that it is his duty,
on peril of losing the divine favor, to bring up his children above all things in the fear and knowledge
of God, and if they are talented, have them learn and study something, that they may be employed for
whatever need there is [to have them instructed and trained in a liberal education, that men may be
able to have their aid in government and in whatever is necessary].
If that were done, God would also richly bless us and give us grace to train men by whom land and
people might be improved and likewise well educated citizens, chaste and domestic wives, who afterwards
would rear godly children and servants. Here consider now what deadly injury you are doing if you be
negligent and fail on your part to bring up your child to usefulness and piety, and how you bring upon
yourself all sin and wrath, thus earning hell by your own children, even though you be otherwise pious
and holy. And because this is disregarded, God so fearfully punishes the world that there is no discipline,
government, or peace, of which we all complain, but do not see that it is our fault; for as we train
them, we have spoiled and disobedient children and subjects. Let this be sufficient exhortation; for
to draw this out at length belongs to another time.