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Starts discussion of Fifth Commandment (do not kill)

By Martin Luther

       I. The passions of anger and revenge, of which the Fifth
                  Commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill." This Commandment has
                  one work, which however includes many and dispels many vices,
                  and is called meekness. Now this is of two kinds. The one has
                  a beautiful splendor, and there is nothing back of it. This we
                  practice toward our friends and those who do us good and give
                  us pleasure with goods, honor and favor, or who do not offend
                  us with words nor with deeds. Such meekness irrational animals
                  have, lions and snakes, Jews, Turks, knaves, murderers, bad
                  women. These are all content and gentle when men do what they
                  want, or let them alone; and yet there are not a few who,
                  deceived by such worthless meekness, cover over their anger
                  and excuse it, saying: "I would indeed not be angry, if I were
                  left alone." Certainly, my good man, so the evil spirit also
                  would be meek if he had his own way. Dissatisfaction and
                  resentment overwhelm you in order that they may show you how
                  full of anger and wickedness you are, that you may be
                  admonished to strive after meekness and to drive out anger.
                  The second form of meekness is good through and through, that
                  which is shown toward opponents and enemies, does them no
                  harm, does not revenge itself, does not curse nor revile, does
                  not speak evil of them, does not meditate evil against them,
                  although they had taken away goods, honor, life, friends and
                  everything. Nay, where it is possible, it returns good for
                  evil, speaks well of them, thinks well of them, prays for
                  them. Of this Christ says, Matthew v: "Do good to them that
                  despitefully use you. Pray for them that persecute you and
                  revile you." And Paul, Romans xii: "Bless them which curse
                  you, and by no means curse them, but do good to them."
                  II. Behold how this precious, excellent work has been lost
                  among Christians, so that nothing now everywhere prevails
                  except strife, war, quarreling, anger, hatred, envy,
                  back-biting, cursing, slandering, injuring, vengeance, and all
                  manner of angry works and words; and yet, with all this, we
                  have our many holidays, hear masses, say our prayers,
                  establish churches, and more such spiritual finery, which God
                  has not commanded. We shine resplendently and excessively, as
                  if we were the most holy Christians there ever were. And so
                  because of these mirrors and masks we allow God's Commandment
                  to go to complete ruin, and no one considers or examines
                  himself, how near or how far he be from meekness and the
                  fulfilment of this Commandment; although God has said, that
                  not he who does such works, but he who keeps His Commandments,
                  shall enter into eternal life.
                  Now, since no one lives on earth upon whom God does not bestow
                  an enemy and opponent as a proof of his own anger and
                  wickedness, that is, one who afflicts him in goods, honor,
                  body or friends, and thereby tries whether anger is still
                  present, whether he can be well-disposed toward his enemy,
                  speak well of him, do good to him, and not intend any evil
                  against him; let him come forward who asks what he shall do
                  that he may do good works, please God and be saved. Let him
                  set his enemy before him, keep him constantly before the eyes
                  of his heart, as an exercise whereby he may curb his spirit
                  and train his heart to think kindly of his enemy, wish him
                  well, care for him and pray for him; and then, when
                  opportunity offers, speak well of him and do good to him. Let
                  him who will, try this and if he find not enough to do all his
                  life long, he may convict me of lying, and say that my
                  contention was wrong. But if this is what God desires, and if
                  He will be paid in no other coin, of what avail is it, that we
                  busy ourselves with other great works which are not commanded,
                  and neglect this? Therefore God says, Matthew v, "I say unto
                  you, that whosoever is angry with his neighbor, is in danger
                  of the judgment; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou
                  fool (that is, all manner of invective, cursing, reviling,
                  slandering), he shall be in danger of everlasting fire." What
                  remains then for the outward act, striking, wounding, killing,
                  injuring, etc., if the thoughts and words of anger are so
                  severely condemned?
                  III. But where there is true meekness, there the heart is
                  pained at every evil which happens to one's enemy. And these
                  are the true children and heirs of God and brethren of Christ,
                  Whose heart was so pained for us all when He died on the holy
                  Cross. Even so we see a pious judge passing sentence upon the
                  criminal with sorrow, and regretting the death which the law
                  imposes. Here the act seems to be one of anger and harshness.
                  So thoroughly good is meekness that even in such works of
                  anger it remains, nay, it torments the heart most sorely when
                  it must be angry and severe.
                  But here we must watch, that we be not meek contrary to God's
                  honor and Commandment. For it is written of Moses that he was
                  the very meekest man on earth, and yet, when the Jews had
                  worshiped the golden calf and provoked God to anger, he put
                  many of them to death, and thereby made atonement before God.
                  Likewise it is not fitting that the magistrates should be idle
                  and allow sin to have sway, and that we say nothing. My own
                  possessions, my honor, my injury, I must not regard, nor grow
                  angry because of them; but God's honor and Commandment we must
                  protect, and injury or injustice to our neighbor we must
                  prevent, the magistrates with the sword, the rest of us with
                  reproof and rebuke, yet always with pity for those who have
                  merited the punishment.
                  This high, noble, sweet work can easily be learned, if we
                  perform it in faith, and as an exercise of faith. For if faith
                  does not doubt the favor of God nor question that God is
                  gracious, it will become quite easy for a man to be gracious
                  and favorable to his neighbor, however much he may have
                  sinned; for we have sinned much more against God. Behold, a
                  short Commandment this, but it presents a long, mighty
                  exercise of good works and of faith.
                  Thou shalt not commit adultery.
                  In this Commandment too a good work is commanded, which
                  includes much and drives away much vice; it is called purity,
                  or chastity, of which much is written and preached, and it is
                  well known to every one, only that it is not as carefully
                  observed and practised as other works which are not commanded.
                  So ready are we to do what is not commanded and to leave
                  undone what is commanded. We see that the world is full of
                  shameful works of unchastity, indecent words, tales and
                  ditties, temptation to which is daily increased through
                  gluttony and drunkenness, idleness and frippery. Yet we go our
                  way as if we were Christians; when we have been to church,
                  have said our little prayer, have observed the fasts and
                  feasts, then we think our whole duty is done.
                  Now, if no other work were commanded but chastity alone, we
                  would all have enough to do with this one; so perilous and
                  raging a vice is unchastity. It rages in all our members: in
                  the thoughts of our hearts, in the seeing of our eyes, in the
                  hearing of our ears, in the words of our mouth, in the works
                  of our hands and feet and all our body. To control all these
                  requires labor and effort; and thus the Commandments of God
                  teach us how great truly good works are, nay, that it is
                  impossible for us of our own strength to conceive a good work,
                  to say nothing of attempting or doing it. St. Augustine says,
                  that among all the conflicts of the Christian the conflict of
                  chastity is the hardest, for the one reason alone, that it
                  continues daily without ceasing, and chastity seldom prevails.
                  This all the saints have wept over and lamented, as St. Paul
                  does, Romans vii: "I find in me, that is in my flesh, no good
                  II. If this work of chastity is to be permanent, it will drive
                  to many other good works, to fasting and temperance over
                  against gluttony and drunkenness, to watching and early rising
                  over against laziness and excessive sleep, to work and labor
                  over against idleness. For gluttony, drunkenness, lying late
                  abed, loafing and being without work are weapons of
                  unchastity, with which chastity is quickly overcome. On the
                  other hand, the holy Apostle Paul calls fasting, watching and
                  labor godly weapons, with which unchastity is mastered; but,
                  as has been said above, these exercises must do no more than
                  overcome unchastity, and not pervert nature.
                  Above all this, the strongest defence is prayer and the Word
                  of God; namely, that when evil lust stirs, a man flee to
                  prayer, call upon God's mercy and help, read and meditate on
                  the Gospel, and in it consider Christ's sufferings. Thus says
                  Psalm cxxxvii: "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth the
                  little ones of Babylon against the rock," that is, if the
                  heart runs to the Lord Christ with its evil thoughts while
                  they are yet young and just beginning; for Christ is a Rock,
                  on which they are ground to powder and come to naught.
                  See, here each one will find enough to do with himself, and
                  more than enough, and will be given many good works to do
                  within himself. But now no one uses prayer, fasting, watching,
                  labor for this purpose, but men stop in these works as if they
                  were in themselves the whole purpose, although they should be
                  arranged so as to fulfil the work of this Commandment and
                  purify us daily more and more.
                  Some have also indicated more things which should be avoided,
                  such as soft beds and clothes, that we should avoid excessive
                  adornment, and neither associate nor talk with members of the
                  opposite sex, nor even look upon them, and whatsoever else may
                  be conducive to chastity. In all these things no one can fix a
                  definite rule and measure. Each one must watch himself and see
                  what things are needful to him for chastity, in what quantity
                  and how long they help him to be chaste, that he may thus
                  choose and observe them for himself; if he cannot do this, let
                  him for a time give himself up to be controlled by another,
                  who may hold him to such observance until he can learn to rule
                  himself. This was the purpose for which the monastic houses
                  were established of old, to teach young people discipline and
                  III. In this work a good strong faith is a great help, more
                  noticeably so than in almost any other; so that for this
                  reason also Isaiah xi. says that "faith is a girdle of the
                  reins," that is, a guard of chastity. For he who so lives that
                  he looks to God for all grace, takes pleasure in spiritual
                  purity; therefore he can so much more easily resist fleshly
                  impurity: and in such faith the Spirit tells him of a
                  certainty how he shall avoid evil thoughts and everything that
                  is repugnant to chastity. For as the faith in divine favor
                  lives without ceasing and works in all works, so it also does
                  not cease its admonitions in all things that are pleasing to
                  God or displease Him; as St. John says in his Epistle: "Ye
                  need not that any man teach you: for the divine anointing,
                  that is, the Spirit of God, teacheth you of all things."
                  Yet we must not despair if we are not soon rid of the
                  temptation, nor by any means imagine that we are free from it
                  as long as we live, and we must regard it only as an incentive
                  and admonition to prayer, fasting, watching, laboring, and to
                  other exercises for the quenching of the flesh, especially to
                  the practice and exercise of faith in God. For that chastity
                  is not precious which is at ease, but that which is at war
                  with unchastity, and fights, and without ceasing drives out
                  all the poison with which the flesh and the evil spirit attack
                  it. Thus St. Peter says, "I beseech you, abstain from fleshly
                  desires and lusts, which war always against the soul." And St.
                  Paul, Romans vi, "Ye shall not obey the body in its lusts." In
                  these and like passages it is shown that no one is without
                  evil lust; but that everyone shall and must daily fight
                  against it. But although this brings uneasiness and pain, it
                  is none the less a work that gives pleasure, in which we shall
                  have our comfort and satisfaction. For they who think they
                  make an end of temptation by yielding to it, only set
                  themselves on fire the more; and although for a time it is
                  quiet, it comes again with more strength another time, and
                  finds the nature weaker than before.
                  Thou shalt not steal.
                  This Commandment also has a work, which embraces very many
                  good works, and is opposed to many vices, and is called in
                  German Mildigkeit, "benevolence;" which is a work ready to
                  help and serve every one with one's goods. And it fights not
                  only against theft and robbery, but against all stinting in
                  temporal goods which men may practise toward one another: such
                  as greed, usury, overcharging and plating wares that sell as
                  solid, counterfeit wares, short measures and weights, and who
                  could tell all the ready, novel, clever tricks, which multiply
                  daily in every trade, by which every one seeks his own gain
                  through the other's loss, and forgets the rule which says:
                  "What ye wish that others do to you, that do ye also to them."
                  If every one kept this rule before his eyes in his trade,
                  business, and dealings with his neighbor, he would readily
                  find how he ought to buy and sell, take and give, lend and
                  give for nothing, promise and keep his promise, and the like.
                  And when we consider the world in its doings, how greed
                  controls all business, we would not only find enough to do, if
                  we would make an honorable living before God, but also be
                  overcome with dread and fear for this perilous, miserable
                  life, which is so exceedingly overburdened, entangled and
                  taken captive with cares of this temporal life and dishonest
                  seeking of gain.
                  II. Therefore the Wise Man says not in vain: "Happy is the
                  rich man, who is found without blemish, who does not run after
                  gold, and has not set his confidence in the treasures of
                  money. Who is he? We will praise him, that he has done
                  wondrous things in his life." As if he would say: "None such
                  is found, or very few indeed." Yea, they are very few who
                  notice and recognise such lust for gold in themselves. For
                  greed has here a very beautiful, fine cover for its shame,
                  which is called provision for the body and natural need, under
                  cover of which it accumulates wealth beyond all limits and is
                  never satisfied; so that he who would in this matter keep
                  himself clean, must truly, as he says, do miracles or wondrous
                  things in his life.
                  Now see, if a man wish not only to do good works, but even
                  miracles, which God may praise and be pleased with, what need
                  has he to look elsewhere? Let him take heed to himself, and
                  see to it that he run not after gold, nor set his trust on
                  money, but let the gold run after him, and money wait on his
                  favor, and let him love none of these things nor set his heart
                  on them; then he is the true, generous, wonderworking, happy
                  man, as Job xxxi says: "I have never yet: relied upon gold,
                  and never yet made gold my hope and confidence." And Psalm
                  lxii: "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them." So
                  Christ also teaches, Matthew vi, that we shall take no
                  thought, what we shall eat and drink and wherewithal we shall
                  be clothed, since God cares for this, and knows that we have
                  need of all these things.
                  But some say: "Yes, rely upon that, take no thought, and see
                  whether a roasted chicken will fly into your mouth!" I do not
                  say that a man shall not labor and seek a living; but he shall
                  not worry, not be greedy, not despair, thinking that he will
                  not have enough; for in Adam we are all condemned to labor,
                  when God says to him, Genesis iii, "In the sweat of thy face
                  shalt thou eat bread." And Job v, "As the birds to flying, so
                  is man born unto labor." Now the birds fly without worry and
                  greed, and so we also should labor without worry and greed;
                  but if you do worry and are greedy, wishing that the roasted
                  chicken fly into your mouth: worry and be greedy, and see
                  whether you will thereby fulfil God's Commandment and be
                  III. This work faith teaches of itself. For if the heart looks
                  for divine favor and relies upon it, how is it possible that a
                  man should be greedy and worry? He must be sure beyond a doubt
                  that God cares for him; therefore he does not cling to money;
                  he uses it also with cheerful liberality for the benefit of
                  his neighbor, and knows well that he will have enough, however
                  much he may give away. For his God, Whom he trusts, will not
                  lie to him nor forsake him, as it is written, Psalm xxxvii: "I
                  have been young, and now am old; never have I seen a believing
                  man, who trusts God, that is a righteous man, forsaken, or his
                  child begging bread." Therefore the Apostle calls no other sin
                  idolatry except covetousness, because this sin shows most
                  plainly that it does not trust God for anything, expects more
                  good from its money than from God; and, as has been said, it
                  is by such confidence that God is truly honored or dishonored.
                  And, indeed, in this Commandment it can be clearly seen how
                  all good works must be done in faith; for here every one most
                  surely feels that the cause of covetousness is distrust and
                  the cause of liberality is faith. For because a man trusts
                  God, he is generous and does not doubt that he will always
                  have enough; on the other hand, a man is covetous and worries
                  because he does not trust God. Now, as in this Commandment
                  faith is the master-workman and the doer of the good work of
                  liberality, so it is also in all the other Commandments, and
                  without such faith liberality is of no worth, but rather a
                  careless squandering of money.
                  IV. By this we are also to know that this liberality shall
                  extend even to enemies and opponents. For what manner of good
                  deed is that, if we are liberal only to our friends? As Christ
                  teaches, Luke vi, even a wicked man does that to another who
                  is his friend. Besides, the brute beasts also do good and are
                  generous to their kind. Therefore a Christian must rise
                  higher, let his liberality serve also the undeserving,
                  evil-doers, enemies, and the ungrateful, even as his heavenly
                  Father makes His sun to rise on good and evil, and the rain to
                  fall on the grateful and ungrateful.
                  But here it will be found how hard it is to do good works
                  according to God's Commandment, how nature squirms, twists and
                  writhes in its opposition to it, although it does the good
                  works of its own choice easily and gladly. Therefore take your
                  enemies, the ungrateful, and do good to them; then you will
                  find how near you are to this Commandment or how far from it,
                  and how all your life you will always have to do with the
                  practice of this work. For if your enemy needs you and you do
                  not help him when you can, it is just the same as if you had
                  stolen what belonged to him, for you owed it to him to help
                  him. So says St. Ambrose, "Feed the hungry; if you do not feed
                  him, you have, as far as you are concerned, slain him." And in
                  this Commandment are included the works of mercy, which Christ
                  will require at men's hands at the last day.
                  But the magistrates and cities ought to see to it that the
                  vagabonds, pilgrims and mendicants from foreign lands be
                  debarred, or at least allowed only under restrictions and
                  rules, so that knaves be not permitted to run at large under
                  the guise of mendicants, and their knavery, of which there now
                  is much, be prohibited. I have spoken at greater length of
                  this Commandment in the Treatise on Usury.
                  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
                  This Commandment seems small, and yet is so great, that he who
                  would rightly keep it must risk and imperil life and limb,
                  goods and honor, friends and all that he has; and yet it
                  includes no more than the work of that small member, the
                  tongue, and is called in German Wahrheit sagen, "telling the
                  truth" and, where there is need, gainsaying lies; so that it
                  forbids many evil works of the tongue. First: those which are
                  committed by speaking, and those which are committed by
                  keeping silent. By speaking, when a man has an unjust
                  law-suit, and wants to prove and maintain his case by a false
                  argument, catch his neighbor with subtilty, produce everything
                  that strengthens and furthers his own cause, and withhold and
                  discount everything that furthers his neighbor's good cause;
                  in doing which he does not do to his neighbor as he would have
                  his neighbor do to him. This some men do for the sake of gain,
                  some to avoid loss or shame, thereby seeking their own
                  advantage more than God's Commandment, and excuse themselves
                  by saying: Vigilanti jura subveniunt, "the law helps him who
                  watches"; just as if it were not as much their duty to watch
                  for their neighbor's cause as for their own. Thus they
                  intentionally allow their neighbor's cause to be lost,
                  although they know that it is just. This evil is at present so
                  common that I fear no court is held and no suit tried but that
                  one side sins against this Commandment. And even when they
                  cannot accomplish it, they yet have the unrighteous spirit and
                  will, so that they would wish the neighbor's just cause to be
                  lost and their unjust cause to prosper. This sin is most
                  frequent when the opponent is a prominent man or an enemy. For
                  a man wants to revenge himself on his enemy: but the ill will
                  of a man of prominence he does not wish to bring upon himself;
                  and then begins the flattering and fawning, or, on the other
                  hand, the withholding of the truth. Here no one is willing to
                  run the risk of disfavor and displeasure, loss and danger for
                  the truth's sake; and so God's Commandment must perish. And
                  this is almost universally the way of the world. He who would
                  keep this Commandment, would have both hands full doing only
                  those good works which concern the tongue. And then, how many
                  are there who allow themselves to be silenced and swerved
                  aside from the truth by presents and gifts! so that in all
                  places it is truly a high, great, rare work, not to be a false
                  witness against one's neighbor.
                  II. There is a second bearing of witness to the truth, which
                  is still greater, with which we must fight against the evil
                  spirits; and this concerns not temporal matters, but the
                  Gospel and the truth of faith, which the evil spirit has at no
                  time been able to endure, and always so manages that the great
                  among men, whom it is hard to resist, must oppose and
                  persecute it. Of which it is written in Psalm lxxxii, "Rid the
                  poor out of the hand of the wicked, and help the forsaken to
                  maintain his just cause."
                  Such persecution, it is true, has now become infrequent; but
                  that is the fault of the spiritual prelates, who do not stir
                  up the Gospel, but let it perish, and so have abandoned the
                  very thing because of which such witnessing and persecution
                  should arise; and in its place they teach us their own law and
                  what pleases them. For this reason the devil also does not
                  stir, since by vanquishing the Gospel he has also vanquished
                  faith in Christ, and everything goes as he wishes. But if the
                  Gospel should be stirred up and be heard again, without doubt
                  the whole world would be aroused and moved, and the greater
                  portion of the kings, princes, bishops, doctors and clergy,
                  and all that is great, would oppose it and rage against it, as
                  has always happened when the Word of God has come to light;
                  for the world cannot endure what comes from God. This is
                  proved in Christ, Who was and is the very greatest and most
                  precious and best of all that God has; yet the world not only
                  did not receive Him, but persecuted Him more cruelly than all
                  others who had ever come forth from God.
                  Therefore, as at that time, so at all times there are few who
                  stand by the divine truth, and imperil and risk life and limb,
                  goods and honor, and all that they have, as Christ has
                  foretold: "Ye shall be hated of all men for My Name's sake."
                  And: "Many of them shall be offended in Me." Yea, if this
                  truth were attacked by peasants, herdsmen, stable-boys and men
                  of no standing, who would not be willing and able to confess
                  it and to bear witness to it? But when the pope, and the
                  bishops, together with princes and kings attack it, all men
                  flee, keep silent, dissemble, in order that they may not lose
                  goods, honor, favor and life.
                  III. Why do they do this? Because they have no faith in God,
                  and expect nothing good from Him. For where such faith and
                  confidence are, there is also a bold, defiant, fearless heart,
                  that ventures and stands by the truth, though it cost life or
                  cloak, though it be against pope or kings; as we see that the
                  martyrs did. For such a heart is satisfied and rests easy
                  because it has a gracious, loving God. Therefore it despises
                  all the favor, grace, goods and honor of men, lets them come
                  and go as they please; as is written in Psalm xv: "He
                  contemneth them that contemn God, and honoreth them that fear
                  the Lord"; that is, the tyrants, the mighty, who persecute the
                  truth and despise God, he does not fear, he does not regard
                  them, he despiseth them; on the other hand, those who are
                  persecuted for the truth's sake, and fear God more than men,
                  to these he clings, these he defends, these he honors, let it
                  vex whom it may; as it is written of Moses, Hebrews xi, that
                  he stood by his brethren, regardless of the mighty king of
                  Lo, in this Commandment again you see briefly that faith must
                  be the master-workman in this work also, so that without it no
                  one has courage to do this work: so entirely are all works
                  comprised in faith, as has now been often said. Therefore,
                  apart from faith all works are dead, however good the form and
                  name they bear. For as no one does the work of this
                  Commandment except he be firm and fearless in the confidence
                  of divine favor; so also he does no work of any other
                  Commandment without the same faith: thus every one may easily
                  by this Commandment test and weigh himself whether he be a
                  Christian and truly believe in Christ, and thus whether he is
                  doing good works or no. Now we see how the Almighty God has
                  not only set our Lord Jesus Christ before us that we should
                  believe in Him with such confidence, but also holds before us
                  in Him an example of this same confidence and of such good
                  works, to the end that we should believe in Him, follow Him
                  and abide in Him forever; as He says, John xiv: "I am the Way,
                  the Truth and the Life," -- the Way, in which we follow Him;
                  the Truth, that we believe in Him; the Life, that we live in
                  Him forever.
                  From all this it is now manifest that all other works, which
                  are not commanded, are perilous and easily known: such as
                  building churches, beautifying them, making pilgrimages, and
                  all that is written at so great length in the Canon Law and
                  has misled and burdened the world and ruined it, made uneasy
                  consciences, silenced and weakened faith, and has not said how
                  a man, although he neglect all else, has enough to do with all
                  his powers to keep the Commandments of God, and can never do
                  all the good works which he is commanded to do; why then does
                  he seek others, which are neither necessary nor commanded, and
                  neglect those that are necessary and commanded?
                  The last two Commandments, which forbid evil desires of the
                  body for pleasure and for temporal goods, are clear in
                  themselves; these evil desires do no harm to our neighbor, and
                  yet they continue unto the grave, and the strife in us against
                  them endures unto death; therefore these two Commandments are
                  drawn together by St. Paul into one, Romans vii, and are set
                  as a goal unto which we do not attain, and only in our
                  thoughts reach after until death. For no one has ever been so
                  holy that he felt in himself no evil inclination, especially
                  when occasion and temptation were offered. For original sin is
                  born in us by nature, and may be checked, but not entirely
                  uprooted, except through the death of the body; which for this
                  reason is profitable and a thing to be desired. To this may
                  God help us. Amen.

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