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The Eighth Commandment.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame
our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
The Eighth Commandment. (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Over and above our own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we have yet another treasure,
namely, honor and good report [the illustrious testimony of an upright and unsullied name and
reputation], with which we cannot dispense. For it is intolerable to live among men in open shame
and general contempt. Therefore God wishes the reputation, good name, and upright character of
our neighbor to be taken away or diminished as little as his money and possessions, that every
one may stand in his integrity before wife, children, servants, and neighbors. And in the first
place, we take the plainest meaning of this commandment according to the words (Thou shalt not
bear false witness), as pertaining to the public courts of justice, where a poor innocent man
is accused and oppressed by false witnesses in order to be punished in his body, property, or honor.
Now, this appears as if it were of little concern to us at present; but with the Jews it was
quite a common and ordinary matter. For the people were organized under an excellent and regular
government; and where there is still such a government, instances of this sin will not be wanting.
The cause of it is that where judges, burgomasters, princes, or others in authority sit in judgment,
things never fail to go according to the course of the world; namely, men do not like to offend
anybody, flatter, and speak to gain favor, money, prospects, or friendship; and in consequence a
poor man and his cause must be oppressed, denounced as wrong, and suffer punishment. And it is a
common calamity in the world that in courts of justice there seldom preside godly men.
For to be a judge requires above all things a godly man, and not only a godly, but also a wise,
modest, yea, a brave and bold man; likewise, to be a witness requires a fearless and especially a
godly man. For a person who is to judge all matters rightly and carry them through with his decision
will often offend good friends, relatives, neighbors, and the rich and powerful, who can greatly
serve or injure him. Therefore he must be quite blind, have his eyes and ears closed, neither see
nor hear, but go straight forward in everything that comes before him, and decide accordingly.
Therefore this commandment is given first of all that every one shall help his neighbor to secure
his rights, and not allow them to be hindered or twisted, but shall promote and strictly maintain
them, no matter whether he be judge or witness, and let it pertain to whatsoever it will. And especially
is a goal set up here for our jurists that they be careful to deal truly and uprightly with every
case, allowing right to remain right, and, on the other hand, not perverting anything [by their tricks
and technical points turning black into white and making wrong out to be right], nor glossing it over
or keeping silent concerning it, irrespective of a person's money, possession, honor, or power. This
is one part and the plainest sense of this commandment concerning all that takes place in court.
Next, it extends very much further, if we are to apply it to spiritual jurisdiction or administration;
here it is a common occurrence that every one bears false witness against his neighbor. For wherever
there are godly preachers and Christians, they must bear the sentence before the world that they are
called heretics, apostates, yea, seditious and desperately wicked miscreants. Besides the Word of
God must suffer in the most shameful and malicious manner, being persecuted blasphemed, contradicted,
perverted and falsely cited and interpreted. But let this pass; for it is the way of the blind world
that she condemns and persecutes the truth and the children of God, and yet esteems it no sin.
In the third place, what concerns us all, this commandment forbids all sins of the tongue whereby
we may injure or approach too closely to our neighbor. For to bear false witness is nothing else
than a work of the tongue. Now, whatever is done with the tongue against a fellow-man God would
have prohibited, whether it be false preachers with their doctrine and blasphemy, false judges and
witnesses with their verdict, or outside of court by lying and evil-speaking. Here belongs particularly
the detestable, shameful vice of speaking behind a person's back and slandering, to which the devil
spurs us on and of which there would be much to be said. For it is a common evil plague that every
one prefers hearing evil to hearing good of his neighbor; and although we ourselves are so bad that
we cannot suffer that any one should say anything bad about us, but every one would much rather
that all the world should speak of him in terms of gold, yet we cannot bear that the best is spoken
Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove
his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there
is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it,
but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command
to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is
greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it,
until you are appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.
Those, then, are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but proceed to assume
jurisdiction, and when they know a slight offense of another, carry it into every corner, and are
delighted and tickled that they can stir up another's displeasure [baseness], as swine roll themselves
in the dirt and root in it with the snout. This is nothing else than meddling with the judgment and
office of God, and pronouncing sentence and punishment with the most severe verdict. For no judge
can punish to a higher degree nor go farther than to say: "He is a thief, a murderer, a traitor,"
etc. Therefore, whoever presumes to say the same of his neighbor goes just as far as the emperor
and all governments. For although you do not wield the sword, you employ your poisonous tongue to
the shame and hurt of your neighbor.
God therefore would have it prohibited that any one speak evil of another even though he be guilty,
and the latter know it right well; much less if he do not know it, and have it only from hearsay. But
you say: Shall I not say it if it be the truth? Answer: Why do you not make accusation to regular
judges? Ah, I cannot prove it publicly, and hence I might be silenced and turned away in a harsh manner
[incur the penalty of a false accusation]. "Ah, indeed, do you smell the roast?" If you do not trust
yourself to stand before the proper authorities and to make answer, then hold your tongue. But if
you know it, know it for yourself and not for another. For if you tell it to others, although it be
true, you will appear as a liar, because you cannot prove it, and you are, besides acting like a knave.
For we ought never to deprive any one of his honor or good name unless it be first taken away from
False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved. Therefore, what is not manifest
upon sufficient evidence no one shall make public or declare for truth; and in short, whatever is
secret should be allowed to remain secret, or, at any rate, should be secretly reproved, as we shall
hear. Therefore, if you encounter an idle tongue which betrays and slanders some one, contradict such
a one promptly to his face, that he may blush thus many a one will hold his tongue who else would
bring some poor man into bad repute from which he would not easily extricate himself. For honor and
a good name are easily taken away, but not easily restored.
Thus you see that it is summarily forbidden to speak any evil of our neighbor, however the civil
government, preachers, father and mother excepted, on the understanding that this commandment does
not allow evil to go unpunished. Now, as according to the Fifth Commandment no one is to be injured
in body, and yet Master Hannes [the executioner] is excepted, who by virtue of his office does his
neighbor no good, but only evil and harm, and nevertheless does not sin against God's commandment,
because God has on His own account instituted that office; for He has reserved punishment for His
own good pleasure, as He threatens in the First Commandment, -- just so also, although no one has
a right in his own person to judge and condemn anybody, yet if they to whose office it belongs fail
to do it, they sin as well as he who would do so of his own accord, without such office. For here
necessity requires one to speak of the evil, to prefer charges, to investigate and testify; and it
is not different from the case of a physician who is sometimes compelled to examine and handle the
patient whom he is to cure in secret parts. Just so governments, father and mother, brothers and
sisters, and other good friends, are under obligation to each other to reprove evil wherever it is
needful and profitable.
But the true way in this matter would be to observe the order according to the Gospel, Matt. 18:15,
where Christ says: If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee
and him alone. Here you have a precious and excellent teaching for governing well the tongue, which
is to be carefully observed against this detestable misuse. Let this, then, be your rule, that you
do not too readily spread evil concerning your neighbor and slander him to others, but admonish him
privately that he may amend [his life]. Likewise, also, if some one report to you what this or that
one has done, teach him, too, to go and admonish him personally if he have seen it himself; but if
not, that he hold his tongue.
The same you can learn also from the daily government of the household. For when the master of
the house sees that the servant does not do what he ought, he admonishes him personally. But if he
were so foolish as to let the servant sit at home, and went on the streets to complain of him to his
neighbors, he would no doubt be told: "You fool, what does that concern us? Why do you not tell it
to him ?" Behold, that would be acting quite brotherly, so that the evil would be stayed, and your
neighbor would retain his honor. As Christ also says in the same place: If he hear thee, thou host
gained thy brother. Then you have done a great and excellent work; for do you think it is a little
matter to gain a brother? Let all monks and holy orders step forth, with all their works melted
together into one mass, and see if they can boast that they have gained a brother.
Further, Christ teaches: But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that
in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. So he whom it concerns is always
to be treated with personally, and not to be spoken of without his knowledge. But if that do not avail,
then bring it publicly before the community, whether before the civil or the ecclesiastical tribunal.
For then you do not stand alone, but you have those witnesses with you by whom you can convict the
guilty one, relying on whom the judge can pronounce sentence and punish. This is the right and regular
course for checking and reforming a wicked person. But if we gossip about another in all corners
and stir the filth, no one will be reformed, and afterwards when we are to stand up and bear witness,
we deny having said so. Therefore it would serve such tongues right if their itch for slander were
severely punished, as a warning to others. If you were acting for your neighbor's reformation or
from love of the truth, you would not sneak about secretly nor shun the day and the light.
All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge
and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself
into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the
light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the
Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For
where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.
Thus we have now the sum and general understanding of this commandment, to wit, that no one do
any injury with the tongue to his neighbor, whether friend or foe, nor speak evil of him, no matter
whether it be true or false, unless it be done by commandment or for his reformation, but that every
one employ his tongue and make it serve for the best of every one else, to cover up his neighbor's
sins and infirmities, excuse them, palliate and garnish them with his own reputation. The chief reason
for this should be the one which Christ alleges in the Gospel, in which He comprehends all commandments
respecting our neighbor, Matt. 7:12: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.
Even nature teaches the same thing in our own bodies, as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. 12:22: Much more,
those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary; and those members of the body
which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts
have more abundant comeliness. No one covers his face, eyes, nose, and mouth, for they, being in
themselves the most honorable members which we have, do not require it. But the most infirm members,
of which we are ashamed, we cover with all diligence; hands, eyes, and the whole body must help to
cover and conceal them. Thus also among ourselves should we adorn whatever blemishes and infirmities
we find in our neighbor, and serve and help him to promote his honor to the best of our ability, and,
on the other hand, prevent whatever may be discreditable to him. And it is especially an excellent
and noble virtue for one always to explain advantageously and put the best construction upon all he
may hear of his neighbor (if it be not notoriously evil), or at any rate to condone it over and against
the poisonous tongues that are busy wherever they can pry out and discover something to blame in a
neighbor, and that explain and pervert it in the worst way; as is done now especially with the precious
Word of God and its preachers.
There are comprehended therefore in this commandment quite a multitude of good works which please
God most highly, and bring abundant good and blessing, if only the blind world and the false saints
would recognize them. For there is nothing on or in entire man which can do both greater and more
extensive good or harm in spiritual and in temporal matters than the tongue, though it is the least
and feeblest member.
The Ninth Commandment.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor's inheritance
or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him
in keeping it.
The Tenth Commandment.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant,
nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away our neighbor's
wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty.
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments. (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his
cattle, nor anything that is his.
These two commandments are given quite exclusively to the Jews; nevertheless, in part they also
concern us. For they do not interpret them as referring to unchastity or theft, because these are
sufficiently forbidden above. They also thought that they had kept all those when they had done or
not done the external act. Therefore God has added these two commandments in order that it be esteemed
as sin and forbidden to desire or in any way to aim at getting our neighbor's wife or possessions; and
especially because under the Jewish government man-servants and maid-servants were not free as now to
serve for wages as long as they pleased, but were their master's property with their body and all they
had, as cattle and other possessions. Moreover, every man had power over his wife to put her away publicly
by giving her a bill of divorce, and to take another. Therefore they were in constant danger among each
other that if one took a fancy to another's wife, he might allege any reason both to dismiss his own wife
and to estrange the other's wife from him, that he might obtain her under pretext of right. That was
not considered a sin nor disgrace with them; as little as now with hired help, when a proprietor dismisses
his man-servant or maid-servant, or takes another's servants from him in any way.
Therefore (I say) they thus interpreted these commandments, and that rightly (although their scope
reaches somewhat farther and higher), that no one think or purpose to obtain what belongs to another,
such as his wife, servants, house and estate, land meadows, cattle, even with a show of right or by a
subterfuge, yet with injury to his neighbor. For above, in the Seventh Commandment, the vice is forbidden
where one wrests to himself the possessions of others, or withholds them from his neighbor, which he
cannot do by right. But here it is also forbidden to alienate anything from your neighbor, even though
you could do so with honor in the eyes of the world, so that no one could accuse or blame you as though
you had obtained it wrongfully.
For we are so inclined by nature that no one desires to see another have as much as himself, and
each one acquires as much as he can; the other may fare as best he can. And yet we pretend to be godly,
know how to adorn ourselves most finely and conceal our rascality, resort to and invent adroit devices
and deceitful artifices (such as now are daily most ingeniously contrived) as though they were derived
from the law codes; yea, we even dare impertinently to refer to it, and boast of it, and will not have
it called rascality, but shrewdness and caution. In this lawyers and jurists assist, who twist and
stretch the law to suit it to their cause, stress words and use them for a subterfuge, irrespective
of equity or their neighbor's necessity. And, in short, whoever is the most expert and cunning in these
affairs finds most help in law, as they themselves say: Vigilantibus iura subveniunt [that is, The
laws favor the watchful].
This last commandment therefore is given not for rogues in the eyes of the world, but just for
the most pious, who wish to be praised and be called honest and upright people, since they have not
offended against the former commandments, as especially the Jews claimed to be, and even now many
great noblemen, gentlemen, and princes. For the other common masses belong yet farther down, under
the Seventh Commandment, as those who are not much concerned whether they acquire their possessions
with honor and right.
Now, this occurs most frequently in cases that are brought into court, where it is the purpose to
get something from our neighbor and to force him out of his own. As (to give examples), when people
quarrel and wrangle about a large inheritance, real estate, etc., they avail themselves of, and resort
to, whatever has the appearance of right, so dressing and adorning everything that the law must favor
their side, and they keep the property with such title that no one can make complaint or lay claim
thereto. In like manner, if any one desire to have a castle, city, duchy, or any other great thing,
he practises so much financiering through relationships, and by any means he can, that the other is
judicially deprived of it, and it is adjudicated to him, and confirmed with deed and seal and declared
to have been acquired by princely title and honestly.
Likewise also in common trade where one dexterously slips something out of another's hand, so that
he must look after it, or surprises and defrauds him in a matter in which he sees advantage and benefit
for himself, so that the latter, perhaps on account of distress or debt, cannot regain or redeem it
without injury, and the former gains the half or even more; and yet this must not be considered as
acquired by fraud or stolen, but honestly bought. Here they say: First come, first served, and every
one must look to his own interest, let another get what he can. And who can be so smart as to think
of all the ways in which one can get many things into his possession by such specious pretexts? This
the world does not consider wrong [nor is it punished by laws], and will not see that the neighbor is
thereby placed at a disadvantage, and must sacrifice what he cannot spare without injury. Yet there
is no one who wishes this to be done to him; from which we can easily perceive that such devices and
pretexts are false.
Thus it was done formerly also with respect to wives: they knew such devices that if one were
pleased with another woman, he personally or through others (as there were many ways and means to be
invented) caused her husband to conceive a displeasure toward her, or had her resist him and so conduct
herself that he was obliged to dismiss her and leave her to the other. That sort of thing undoubtedly
prevailed much under the Law, as also we read in the (Gospel of King Herod that he took his brother's
wife while he was yet living, and yet wished to be thought an honorable, pious man, as St. Mark also
testifies of him. But such an example, I trust, will not occur among us, because in the New Testament
those who are married are forbidden to be divorced, except in such a case where one [shrewdly] by some
stratagem takes away a rich bride from another. But it is not a rare thing with us that one estranges
or alienates another's man-servant or maid-servant, or entices them away by flattering words.
In whatever way such things happen, we must know that God does not wish that you deprive your neighbor
of anything that belongs to him so that he suffer the loss and you gratify your avarice with it, even
if you could keep it honorably before the world; for it is a secret and insidious imposition practised
under the hat, as we say, that it may not be observed. For although you go your way as if you had done
no one any wrong, you have nevertheless injured your neighbor; and if it is not called stealing and
cheating, yet it is called coveting your neighbor's property, that is, aiming at possession of it,
enticing it away from him without his will, and being unwilling to see him enjoy what God has granted
him. And although the judge and every one must leave you in possession of it, yet God will not leave
you therein; for He sees the deceitful heart and the malice of the world, which is sure to take an
ell in addition wherever you yield to her a finger's breadth, and at length public wrong and violence follow.
Therefore we allow these commandments to remain in their ordinary meaning, that it is commanded,
first, that we do not desire our neighbor's damage, nor even assist, nor give occasion for it, but
gladly wish and leave him what he has, and, besides, advance and preserve for him what may be for
his profit and service, as we should wish to be treated. Thus these commandments are especially
directed against envy and miserable avarice, God wishing to remove all causes and sources whence
arises everything by which we do injury to our neighbor, and therefore He expresses it in plain words:
Thou shalt not covet, etc. For He would especially have the heart pure, although we shall never attain
to that as long as we live here; so that this commandment will remain, like all the rest, one that
will constantly accuse us and show how godly we are in the sight of God!
What Does God Say of All These Commandments?
He says thus (Exod. 20, 5f ]: I the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
What does this mean?
Answer: God threatens to punish all that transgress these commandments. Therefore we should dread
His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to
all that keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and gladly do
[zealously and diligently order our whole life] according to His commandments.
Conclusion of the Ten Commandments. (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thus we have the Ten Commandments, a compend of divine doctrine, as to what we are to do in order
that our whole life may be pleasing to God, and the true fountain and channel from and in which
everything must arise and flow that is to be a good work, so that outside of the Ten Commandments
no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, however great or precious it be in the eyes of the
world. Let us see now what our great saints can boast of their spiritual orders and their great and
grievous works which they have invented and set up, while they let these pass, as though they were
far too insignificant, or had long ago been perfectly fulfilled.
I am of opinion indeed, that here one will find his hands full, [and will have enough] to do to
observe these, namely, meekness, patience, and love towards enemies, chastity, kindness, etc., and
what such virtues imply. But such works are not of value and make no display in the eyes of the world;
for they are not peculiar and conceited works and restricted to particular times, places, rites, and
customs, but are common, every-day domestic works which one neighbor can practise toward another;
therefore they are not of high esteem.
But the other works cause people to open their eyes and ears wide, and men aid to this effect by
the great display, expense, and magnificent buildings with which they adorn them, so that everything
shines and glitters. There they waft incense, they sing and ring bells, they light tapers and candles,
so that nothing else can be seen or heard. For when a priest stands there in a surplice embroidered
with gilt, or a layman continues all day upon his knees in church, that is regarded as a most precious
work which no one can sufficiently praise. But when a poor girl tends a little child and faithfully
does what she is told that is considered nothing; for else what should monks and nuns seek in their
But see, is not that a cursed presumption of those desperate saints who dare to invent a higher
and better life and estate than the Ten Commandments teach, pretending (as we have said) that this
is an ordinary life for the common man, but that theirs is for saints and perfect ones? And the miserable
blind people do not see that no man can get so far as to keep one of the Ten Commandments as it should
be kept, but both the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer must come to our aid (as we shall hear),
by which that [power and strength to keep the commandments] is sought and prayed for and received
continually. Therefore all their boasting amounts to as much as if I boasted and said: To be sure,
I have not a penny to make payment with, but I confidently undertake to pay ten florins.
All this I say and urge in order that men might become rid of the sad misuse which has taken such
deep root and still cleaves to everybody, and in all estates upon earth become used to looking hither
only, and to being concerned about these matters. For it will be a long time before they will produce
a doctrine or estates equal to the Ten Commandments, because they are so high that no one can attain
to them by human power; and whoever does attain to them is a heavenly, angelic man far above all
holiness of the world. Only occupy yourself with them, and try your best, apply all power and ability
and you will find so much to do that you will neither seek nor esteem any other work or holiness.
Let this be sufficient concerning the first part of the common Christian doctrine, both for teaching
and urging what is necessary. In conclusion, however, we must repeat the text which belongs here,
of which we have treated already in the First Commandment, in order that we may learn what pains God
requires to the end we may learn to inculcate and practise the Ten Commandments:
For I the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them
that love Me and keep My commandments.
Although (as we have heard above) this appendix was primarily attached to the First Commandment,
it was nevertheless [we cannot deny that it was] laid down for the sake of all the commandments, as
all of them are to be referred and directed to it. Therefore I have said that this, too, should be
presented to and inculcated upon the young, that they may learn and remember it, in order to see
what is to urge and compel us to keep these Ten Commandments. And it is to be regarded as though
this part were specially added to each, so that it inheres in, and pervades, them all.
Now, there is comprehended in these words (as said before) both an angry word of threatening
and a friendly promise to terrify and warn us, and, moreover to induce and encourage us to receive
and highly esteem His Word as a matter of divine earnestness, because He Himself declares how much
He is concerned about it, and how rigidly He will enforce it, namely, that He will horribly and
terribly punish all who despise and transgress His commandments; and again, how richly He will reward,
bless, and do all good to those who hold them in high esteem, and gladly do and live according to
them. Thus He demands that all our works proceed from a heart which fears and regards God alone, and
from such fear avoids everything that is contrary to His will, lest it should move Him to wrath; and,
on the other hand, also trusts in Him alone, and from love to Him does all He wishes, because he
speaks to us as friendly as a father, and offers us all grace and every good.
Just this is also the meaning and true interpretation of the first and chief commandment, from
which all the others must flow and proceed, so that this word: Thou shalt have no other gods before
Me, in its simplest meaning states nothing else than this demand: Thou shalt fear, love, and trust
in Me as thine only true God. For where there is a heart thus disposed towards God, the same has
fulfilled this and all the other commandments. On the other hand, whoever fears and loves anything
else in heaven and upon earth will keep neither this nor any. Thus the entire scriptures have everywhere
preached and inculcated this commandment, aiming always at these two things: fear of God and trust
in Him. And especially the prophet David throughout the Psalms, as when he says [Ps. 147:11]: The
Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy. As if the entire commandment
were explained by one verse, as much as to say: The Lord taketh pleasure in those who have no other gods.
Thus the First Commandment is to shine and impart its splendor to all the others. Therefore you
must let this declaration run through all the commandments, like a hoop in a wreath, joining the end
to the beginning and holding them all together, that it be continually repeated and not forgotten;
as, namely, in the Second Commandment, that we fear God and do not take His name in vain for cursing,
lying, deceiving, and other modes of leading men astray, or rascality, but make proper and good use
of it by calling upon Him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, derived from love and trust according
to the First Commandment. In like manner such fear, love, and trust is to urge and force us not to
despise His Word, but gladly to learn, hear, and esteem it holy, and honor it.
Thus continuing through all the following commandments towards our neighbor likewise, everything
is to proceed by virtue of the First Commandment, to wit, that we honor father and mother, masters,
and all in authority and be subject and obedient to them, not on their own account, but for God's
sake. For you are not to regard or fear father or mother, or from love of them do or omit anything.
But see to that which God would have you do, and what He will quite surely demand of you; if you
omit that, you have an angry Judge, but in the contrary case a gracious Father.
Again, that you do your neighbor no harm, injury, or violence, nor in any wise encroach upon him
as touching his body, wife, property, honor, or rights, as all these things are commanded in their
order, even though you have opportunity and cause to do so and no man would reprove you; but that
you do good to all men, help them, and promote their interest, howsoever and wherever you can, purely
from love of God and in order to please Him, in the confidence that He will abundantly reward you
for everything. Thus you see how the First Commandment is the chief source and fountainhead which
flows into all the rest, and again, all return to that and depend upon it, so that beginning and
end are fastened and bound to each other.
This (I say) it is profitable and necessary always to teach to the young people, to admonish them
and to remind them of it, that they may be brought up not only with blows and compulsion, like cattle,
but in the fear and reverence of God. For where this is considered and laid to heart that these things
are not human trifles, but the commandments of the Divine Majesty, who insists upon them with such
earnestness, is angry with, and punishes those who despise them, and, on the other hand, abundantly
rewards those who keep them, there will be a spontaneous impulse and a desire gladly to do the will
of God. Therefore it is not in vain that it is commanded in the Old Testament to write the Ten Commandments
on all walls and corners, yes, even on the garments, not for the sake of merely having them written
in these places and making a show of them, as did the Jews, but that we might have our eyes constantly
fixed upon them, and have them always in our memory, and that we might practise them in all our actions
and ways, and every one make them his daily exercise in all cases, in every business and transaction,
as though they were written in every place wherever he would look, yea, wherever he walks or stands.
Thus there would be occasion enough, both at home in our own house and abroad with our neighbors, to
practise the Ten Commandments, that no one need run far for them.
From this it again appears how highly these Ten Commandments are to be exalted and extolled above
all estates, commandments, and works which are taught and practised aside from them. For here we can
boast and say: Let all the wise and saints step forth and produce, if they can, a [single] work like
these commandments, upon which God insists with such earnestness, and which He enjoins with His greatest
wrath and punishment, and, besides, adds such glorious promises that He will pour out upon us all good
things and blessings. Therefore they should be taught above all others, and be esteemed precious and
dear, as the highest treasure given by God.